Taiji Matsue

Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum

Going to the opposite extreme from the blurry vision of Daido Moriyama, his primary influence, Taiji Matsue asserts relentless visibility, dissolving perspective in the glare of sharp outlines and in the accumulation of self-assertive details, to convey a new kind of anti-humanist vision. Matsue’s conceptual attitude is most evident in his black-and-white work. Photographed with a 4x5 camera, uninhabited fields and mountainsides, sprinkled with trees and rocks, appear as flat picture planes covered with tiny dots or sharp lines. With homogeneous intensity, each dot or line calls for special attention, breaking down a hierarchy between center and periphery. At the same time, the repetition of similar forms creates an evocative rhythm. In texture resembling drawings or etchings, the photos convey a sense of process and tactility. The effect is comparable to the experience of what Anton Ehrenzweig called “de-differentiation,” a term that Robert Smithson used in his 1968 essay “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects” to describe “an artistic method that captures the mind in the ‘primary process’ of making contact with matter.”

At Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum, along with the black-and-white photographs from the series “Gazetteer,” 1989–, and “CC,” 2001– , selected photos from Matsue’s new color series, “JP-22,” were shown: A photo of a sandy estuary looks like a gigantic brushstroke in an Abstract Expressionist painting; a gold area peering through the silver sprawl of rugged lines against the dark background also recalls flowing patterns on a ceramic cup. Still, the tiny blue cars parked in the sand stand out with a volume and clarity that suggests solidity, reasserting the documentary function of photography against the pictorial reduction of the landscape. “JP-22,” taken in Shizuoka Prefecture in the fall of 2005, carries further Matsue’s ambiguous representation of landscape as an organism beyond human design, albeit one heavily marked by the effects of human intervention. Shot from the air, the new photos capture the flow of geometrical forms latent in nature and in the functional environment, to suggest a feeling of commanding at once a microscopic perception of phenomena and a macroscopic grasp of a hidden pattern in geography. The effect of colors in articulating Matsue’s conceptual purpose is strongly felt. In articulating the relation between minute detail and the allover pattern, colors are used as the indices of difference, presenting what Smithson called “a grit in the vanishing point.”

In many of the “J P-22” photos, roads, fields, and buildings are reduced to geometrical designs or lines on the map; the piquant colors, applied to insignificant details scattered in the flat picture plane, create points of entry for multiple perspectives. The precise depiction of details also evokes the memory of physical texture. The aerial photos of an early autumn mountaintop, covered with trees whose leaves appear as a dense accumulation of minute folds, suggesting at once fish scales and broccoli heads, convey the tactility of painterly texture. Adhering to photography’s basic function of recording facts, Matsue’s images reveal something in the landscape that escapes the limits of ordinary vision. Indeed, he uses the camera to enlarge the capacity of human perception to encounter the vicissitudes of the world outside it.

Midori Matsui