Toshio Shibata, Constructed Landscapes at the PEM


Toshio Shibata, Constructed Landscapes

The Peabody Essex Museum is only 25 miles North of Boston, but my advice is not to try to make the trip during rush hour. Which, as any Bostonian knows, runs from late afternoon through early evening. If that is your only option, the trip is always exceedingly well worth the irritatingly slow drive. The PEM is one of the cultural jewels of New England and it currently shines even brighter than usual.

It’s because of the current exhibition of Toshio Shibata’s black and white and color prints.

Phillip Prodger, once again, makes the smallish balcony photo gallery seem as large and important as any photography space in any museum. He curated the current exhibition featuring black and white and color prints by Toshio Shibata.

The work is beyond superb. Toshio Shibata’s photographs are both beautifully composed and expertly rendered. They are large-format prints and (as opposed to many large–format prints) they deserve to be. Details in Toshio Shibata’s photographs – both obvious and subtle – are of utmost importance. They are as crucial to the impact of the photographs as the photos carefully delineated compositions.

At a recent event held at the PEM, Cary Wolinsky brought to my attention a minute figure in the corner of one of the images. Seeing that small figure immediately changed my entire perception of the photograph.

Toshio Shibata’s use of color is both subtle and bold. It works in almost magical ways. For example, in Okawa Village, Tosa County, Kochi Prefecture, 2007 a red bridge slams headfirst into a rich green landscape. Usually, these two primary colors would create an extremely irritating vibration. Not here. The red and green mesh perfectly.

My advice. If you are in the Boston area, do not miss this exhibition, and do not make the trip during rush hour.

From the Peabody Essex Museum website:

One of Japan’s preeminent landscape photographers, Toshio Shibata is known for exploring the delicate balance between human-made structures and nature. Photographing erosion control barriers, water catchments, roads, dams and bridges, he examines the unique appearance of such structures in his native land. Through his lens, riverbeds can look like origami, and waterfalls resemble kimono.

This exhibition of 28 large-format works will be the artist’s first solo show in an American museum since 1995 and the first time his color pictures will be shown in America.

Shibata was recently featured in a two-person show at the National Arts Center, Tokyo, and in a solo retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.

Made possible by the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

The facts:
Toshio Shibata, Constructed Landscapes

April 20 – December 31, 2013
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783
Phone: 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

Photo above left and below: Toshio ShibataOkawa Village, Tosa County, Kochi Prefecture, 2007, © Toshio Shibata

Toshio ShibataTajima Town, Minamiaizu County, Fukushima Prefecture, 1989, © Toshio Shibata

Toshio ShibataOkutama Town, Nishitama County, Tokyo, 2006, © Toshio Shibata