|—||Christopher Castiglia and Christopher Reed, in If Memory Serves: Gay Men, AIDS, and the Promise of the Queer Past (via fiveoclockbot)|
ISHIGURO Kenichirō 石黒賢一郎 (1967- )
For Ishiguro’s website and galleries, click here.
Ishiguro is a contemporary artist who works largely in large-scale paintings and pastels. I first heard his name recently at an exhibition called “The Aesthetics of Existence” ｢存在の美学｣ at the Osaka branch of the Takashimaya Department Store. Although some time has passed since the exhibition, his drawings have continued to haunt me.
His paintings and drawings are lifelike to the point of being photographic, and since they are usually life size, they have a powerful sense of presence. Among his most striking images are portraits of people wearing gas masks, some of whom are naked women. In these images, he takes a symbol of modern murderous excess—an image that has special resonance in our era of fear of chemical weapons—into something fetishistic that incites curiosity, interest, and perhaps even desire on the part of the viewers.
This is especially clear in the pastel drawing Sexual State Experiment 「性態実験」 which shows a nude woman standing in front of a gynological table and a board covered with gags, handcuffs, ropes, a flogger, and other SM gear. While ostensibly, the painting depicts an experiments to test the naked woman in the image, it also tests us, as we gauge our reaction to the provocative image before us.
At the same time, the people in the gas masks are also hiding, as if keeping safe from us and our scopophilic gaze by a barrier of anonymity. What does it mean to have a self-portrait concealed in a gas mask as at the top of this posting? The subject is reduced to a body that is seemingly vulnerable and endangered, yet its interiority is put off limits, resistant to interpretation and identification.
Ultimately, I wonder if what we see in Ishiguro’s work isn’t really ourselves. At the same time we gaze at the mask from the outside, we find ourselves imagining ourselves donning it from inside it as well. At the same time we look, we are visually cut off from the face of the person inside, and that interruption just makes us think all the more about our own act of looking.