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APN Portfolios and Jikken Kobo

The featured APN (Asahi Picture News) portfolios are comprised of modern photographic prints showing sculptures made in 1953 and 1954 by Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Kitadai Shozo, members of the avant-garde collaborative Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop). Founded in Tokyo immediately after World War II, Jikken Kobo’s intermedia, cross-disciplinary works helped to foster the rebirth of the Japanese cultural avant-garde. The collaborative of fourteen visual artists, composers, performers, choreographers, sound engineers, and lighting designers began their public activities in 1951 with a ballet titled The Joy of Life, timed to coincide with Picasso’s first retrospective in Tokyo. The group, whose works combined art and technology, went on to produce stage productions, set and lighting design, costume design, slide shows, and music for modern dance and theater, often in collaboration with individuals outside the group. Jikken Kobo disbanded after seven years and remain relatively unknown outside Japan (especially in comparison to Gutai), but their activities are among the most pioneering in postwar Japanese art. Recent scholarship and interest in the group have shed new light on their important work.

From 1953 to 1954, Izawa Takumi, a young editor at the popular weekly magazine Asahi Graph (often compared to Life), commissioned artists to design images for publication in the magazine. The artists, who included the core members of Jikken Kobo, made sculptural environments incorporating the letters of the magazine’s English-language acronym, APN (Asahi Picture News). The sculptures were then photographed and published as lead images for the magazine’s featured columns. Asahi Graf assigned two photographers, Otsuji Kiyoji and Kitadai, to collaborate with other artists, including Yamaguchi, Komai Tetsuro, and Teshigahara Sofu, to produce photographs for the publication. The APN portfolios feature a selection from the images that were produced during this vital period and show objects made by Yamaguchi and Kitadai photographed by Otsuji and Kitadai. The photographs are experimental in nature, radical in their composition, and bear the formal hallmarks of the artists’ works in other media. They represent some of the most interesting avant-garde accomplishments in postwar Japan.

Yamaguchi, one of Jikken Kobo’s co-founders, likened the workshop to “Bauhaus without a building” He was particularly influenced by Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy's seminal publication The New Vision, but the group also took inspiration from pre-war European and American movements such as Constructivism, Cubism, and Surrealism, as well as from John Cage’s compositions, Martha Graham’s choreography, and Alexander Calder’s mobiles. Although influenced by the Western avant-garde, Jikken Kobo incorporated new technologies to create signature works relating to the specific conditions of 1950s Japan, which was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization.

The two APN portfolios, published by Tokyo Publishing House, were acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in 2011 as a direct result of curatorial travel to Japan through the C-MAP initiative. Since Jikken Kobo was primarily involved with stage productions, slide shows, and theater presentations, much of what they made was ephemeral or exists mostly in Japanese collections. These modern prints are a critical visual representation of the style of the group and bear witness to their multifaceted activities. MoMA has strong holdings of postwar Japanese photography due to the landmark exhibition New Japanese Photography, which was presented at the Museum in 1974. The show featured the work of luminaries such as Moriyama Daido, Tomatsu Shomei, and Hosoe Eikoh. The APN portfolios represent a different photographic tradition and are a vital link to the European avant-garde—the very foundation of MoMA’s collection.

Author

Eva respini portrait

Eva Respini

Curator, Department of Photography The Museum of Modern Art Eva Respini is the Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA/Boston. She was previously Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art and organized... Read more »
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APN Portfolios and Jikken Kobo

The featured APN (Asahi Picture News) portfolios are comprised of modern photographic prints showing sculptures made in 1953 and 1954 by Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Kitadai Shozo, members of the avant-garde collaborative Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop). Founded in Tokyo immediately after World War II, Jikken Kobo’s intermedia, cross-disciplinary works helped to foster the rebirth of the Japanese cultural avant-garde. The collaborative of fourteen visual artists, composers, performers, choreographers, sound engineers, and lighting designers began their public activities in 1951 with a ballet titled The Joy of Life, timed to coincide with Picasso’s first retrospective in Tokyo. The group, whose works combined art and technology, went on to produce stage productions, set and lighting design, costume design, slide shows, and music for modern dance and theater, often in collaboration with individuals outside the group. Jikken Kobo disbanded after seven years and remain relatively unknown outside Japan (especially in comparison to Gutai), but their activities are among the most...

Show More

The featured APN (Asahi Picture News) portfolios are comprised of modern photographic prints showing sculptures made in 1953 and 1954 by Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Kitadai Shozo, members of the avant-garde collaborative Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop). Founded in Tokyo immediately after World War II, Jikken Kobo’s intermedia, cross-disciplinary works helped to foster the rebirth of the Japanese cultural avant-garde. The collaborative of fourteen visual artists, composers, performers, choreographers, sound engineers, and lighting designers began their public activities in 1951 with a ballet titled The Joy of Life, timed to coincide with Picasso’s first retrospective in Tokyo. The group, whose works combined art and technology, went on to produce stage productions, set and lighting design, costume design, slide shows, and music for modern dance and theater, often in collaboration with individuals outside the group. Jikken Kobo disbanded after seven years and remain relatively unknown outside Japan (especially in comparison to Gutai), but their activities are among the most pioneering in postwar Japanese art. Recent scholarship and interest in the group have shed new light on their important work.

From 1953 to 1954, Izawa Takumi, a young editor at the popular weekly magazine Asahi Graph (often compared to Life), commissioned artists to design images for publication in the magazine. The artists, who included the core members of Jikken Kobo, made sculptural environments incorporating the letters of the magazine’s English-language acronym, APN (Asahi Picture News). The sculptures were then photographed and published as lead images for the magazine’s featured columns. Asahi Graf assigned two photographers, Otsuji Kiyoji and Kitadai, to collaborate with other artists, including Yamaguchi, Komai Tetsuro, and Teshigahara Sofu, to produce photographs for the publication. The APN portfolios feature a selection from the images that were produced during this vital period and show objects made by Yamaguchi and Kitadai photographed by Otsuji and Kitadai. The photographs are experimental in nature, radical in their composition, and bear the formal hallmarks of the artists’ works in other media. They represent some of the most interesting avant-garde accomplishments in postwar Japan.

Yamaguchi, one of Jikken Kobo’s co-founders, likened the workshop to “Bauhaus without a building” He was particularly influenced by Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy's seminal publication The New Vision, but the group also took inspiration from pre-war European and American movements such as Constructivism, Cubism, and Surrealism, as well as from John Cage’s compositions, Martha Graham’s choreography, and Alexander Calder’s mobiles. Although influenced by the Western avant-garde, Jikken Kobo incorporated new technologies to create signature works relating to the specific conditions of 1950s Japan, which was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization.

The two APN portfolios, published by Tokyo Publishing House, were acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in 2011 as a direct result of curatorial travel to Japan through the C-MAP initiative. Since Jikken Kobo was primarily involved with stage productions, slide shows, and theater presentations, much of what they made was ephemeral or exists mostly in Japanese collections. These modern prints are a critical visual representation of the style of the group and bear witness to their multifaceted activities. MoMA has strong holdings of postwar Japanese photography due to the landmark exhibition New Japanese Photography, which was presented at the Museum in 1974. The show featured the work of luminaries such as Moriyama Daido, Tomatsu Shomei, and Hosoe Eikoh. The APN portfolios represent a different photographic tradition and are a vital link to the European avant-garde—the very foundation of MoMA’s collection.

     

700 2012 1 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 2 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 3 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 4 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 5 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 6 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 7 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 8 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 9 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 10 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
297 1937 cr

Lightplay: Black/White/Gray

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
701 2012 1 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 2 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 3 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 4 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 5 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 6 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 7 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 8 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 9 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 10 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
700 2012 1 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 2 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 3 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 4 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 5 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 6 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 7 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 8 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 9 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
700 2012 10 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund
297 1937 cr

Lightplay: Black/White/Gray

Gelatin silver print, 14 3/4 x 10 3/4" (37.4 x 27.4 cm). The APN photographs reveal an experimental sensibility that calls to mind Bauhaus photographer and teacher László Moholy-Nagy and his seminal publication The New Vision, a treatise on modern design that championed photography as a medium capable of viewing the world in a way that the human eye could not. Like Jikken Kobo, Moholy-Nagy advocated interdisciplinary cooperation and employed new media when exploring ideas for creative expression. He worked across many disciplines, including photography, film, typography, painting, sculpture, writing, graphic design, and stage design. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the interrelationship of space, time, and mass, and the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light-Space Modulator). This object is the subject of A Lightplay: Black White Gray, his only abstract film, which attempts to visualize the act of seeing from multiple viewpoints. Moholy-Nagy articulated his Light Play experiments in both still photography and moving images.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
701 2012 1 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 2 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 3 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 4 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 5 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 6 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 7 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 8 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 9 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota
701 2012 10 ricr

APN (Asahi Pictures News)

Gelatin silver print, printed 2003, 21 1/16 x 17 1/8" (53.5 x 43.5 cm).

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shigeru Yokota

Latest discussion on:
APN Portfolios and Jikken Kobo

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Informed by an author, I allow to point out that the infos Eva Respini refers to comes from the texts of Shugo Ohtani, Miwako Tezuka, Kin'ichi Obinata and myself compiled in the book and the exhibition I directed with the collaboration of Kin'ichi Obinata called APN Research あぷん published and presented at Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland in October 2012 (Book out of print, new publication in preparation), which was dedicated on this subject :

http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/2012/10/group-show-at-kunsthalle-bern-2/006-10/

Thank you Eva Respini for your introduction on this subject!

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Informed by an author, I allow to point out that the infos Eva Respini refers to comes from the texts of Shugo Ohtani, Miwako Tezuka, Kin'ichi Obinata and myself compiled in the book and the exhibition I directed with the collaboration of Kin'ichi...

Show more »
Eva respini portrait

Posted on 29 May

Thank you for your comment. I am indeed indebted to your research and writing on this topic. Please do let us know when the reprint of your book is out.

Show less »

Thank you for your comment. I am indeed indebted to your research and writing on this topic. Please do let us know when the reprint of your book is out.

Show more »