“Wako Works of Art: 15 Years/Part III”

by Jason Jenkins

Wako Works of Art, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Closes Feb. 26

The Wako Gallery (www.wako-art.jp) continues its 15th anniversary celebration with three approaches to photography. Christopher Williams’ glossy prints of a polished Velosolex, the French motor-driven bicycle, seem plucked from a brochure, their commentary on obsolescence obscured by their sheen. Two prominent color prints from Turner-Prize-winning Wolfgang Tillmans suggests instead the gritty and unfinished: Empty gilded picture frames lean on power breakers, and windows of a locked, dilapidated building reflect a road sign saying “Give Way.” While the two men use photography to relay hidden truths, Fiona Tan seeks the profound in ordinary snapshots. For “Vox Populi, Tokyo,” Tan collected photo albums from 90 Japanese families, scanning pictures that resonated with her even when the cultural context of, say, a suika-wari (children splitting a watermelon in the summer) was lost. The resulting 305 images show a surprisingly comprehensive portrait of Japan. Stiff, posed group shots give way to intimate candids meant only for family viewing.

Tan has long explored the concept of the archive (both Norway and Sydney, Australia have received “Vox Populi” treatments). She is interested in how individuals document their lives, seeking where the subjective and the objective overlap. And if Tan shares one thematic element with Williams and Tillmans, it’s that there’s always more to the story than meets the eye.