Atsushi Kitagawara

Gallery Ma

Atsushi Kitagawara first gained widespread recognition in 1986 with his theatrical, faux-deco cinema complex called “RISE” in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Since then he has consistently revealed himself as a master of free juxtaposition and nonorthogonal planning and detailing. Not unlike the experience of Shin Takamatsu or Philippe Starck’s designs, the experience of his buildings is predominantly one of hedonism, eroticism, and sadomasochism. While not as vacantly painful as Takamatsu, nor as gallicly scatological as Starck, Kitagawara seems to share with them a voyeur’s conception of Tokyo, and by extension, Japan, as pornotopia. It is either a paradox or simply a weakness that Kitagawara’s work poses no further question about the urban environment; he accepts and even seems to find energy in the tragic isolation imposed by postwar Tokyo as a vast, unrelieved necropolis. His is a series of unabashed attempts at architecture as fine art, as exorcism. And yet there is never more than a hint, a suggestion, of what it is that is being so fashionably exorcised.

This exhibition took the form of an installation organized by means of several objects, exploratory study models, and a long wall perforated by industrially fetishized peepholes through which more models, photographs, and videos could be seen. Most of the objects were cast in metal—black iron, stainless steel—and dealt primarily with reproduction and the optical mechanism. The best of these was one of the latter, a black cast-iron representation of three overlapping fields of vision entitled Architecture Transformed into Media, 1990. Viewed arch-tectonically, this piece becomes a walled-in volume that channels separate visual experiences toward a single objective. Similarly, several of the models abstract and diagram the visual experience of a three-dimensional composition through time. Volleys of thin lines delineate alternate or successive points of view. Freed from the gravity of real estate, these protobuildings suggest Kitagawara’s ideal architecture, and show just how many histories, relationships, modulations, and kinds of analysis he bears in mind while designing. But these metal constructions suffer by being realized; in their isolation, self-referentiality, and adjustments to reality, they all too often betray themselves as little more than heavily intentioned free compositions, autoerotic and flamboyant.

Azby Brown