marina ema and kazusa ito as part of the ‘kabuki players’ series by hiroshi watanabe image © hiroshi watanabe

hiroshi watanabe AD galerie, switzerland on from november 8th to november 11th, 2012

california-based japanese artist hiroshi watanabe will be showing his latest work at AD galerie as part of the zurich international contemporary art fair running from november 8th through to november 11th, 2012. watanabe is well known for creating whimsically esoteric photographic portraiture – the content of each series powerfully reflecting upon aspects regarding ritual, people, place and culture.

in one of the collections watanabe explored a theatrical tradition dating back to the 17th century known as ‘kabuki’. this series depicts authentic traditional localized groups active various parts of japan – defined by heavy makeup and elaborate garments, watanabe playfully photographs the actors dressed as  bunnies, shogun warriors and geishas. though each figure seems so heavily disguised by the costumes – one seems to be able to gain intimate insight through watanabe’s representation of each character – freezing time to preserve a moment unique against all others.

apart from being black and white, all of watanabe’s are unified by a common aesthetic – a spectral haziness – as if the image has been taken with a veil in front the camera lens. this eeriness is complemented by the arresting subjects of each artwork – all images taken with a medium format camera and processed in a traditional dark room using gelatin-silver materials. the work is testament to a skill that is able to capture and effectively communicate a concentrated emotional essence specific to each image, telling a story that could not be told otherwise.

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘maiko takaku, matsuo kabuki’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘mari ito as osato, tono kabuki’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘natsuki tukamoto as tarokanja, matsuo kabuki’as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘maiko takaku as yanaginosei, matsuo kabuki’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘ryota nakajima as mannojo, matsuo kabuki’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘yuka onozaki & ikki tada,matsuo kabuki’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘bunshichi, ena bunraku’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘omasa 1, ena bunraku’ as part of ‘kabuki players’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘paolo bisetto trevisin as innamorato’ from the ‘comedy of double meaning’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘viviana ceppa as innamorata’ from the ‘comedy of double meaning’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘paolo bisetto trevisin with morte mask’ from the ‘comedy of double meaning’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘marta marchi as strega’ from the ‘comedy of double meaning’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘marco andreatta as pulcinella’ as part of the ‘comedy of double meaning’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘flower brooch made with shells 2’ as part of the ‘artifacts’ series image © hiroshi watanabe

eerie photographic portraits by hiroshi watanabe ‘japanese doll made with old kimono fabric in basket’ as part of the ‘artifacts’ series image © hiroshi watanabe