“Bob Richardson” and “Terry Richardson”

by Jason Jenkins

Zel Cafe in Roppongi and LaForet Museum in Harajuku

Both close 8 May

At the Zel Gallery in Roppongi (www.zelcg.com), there’s a portrait of fashion photographer Bob Richardson with his son and then-girlfriend Angelica Houston. The year is 1973, and Richardson’s 8-year-old boy, Terry, stares at the camera through a shaggy mop of dark locks, so small and slight aside his brooding father.

My how times change. It’s been more than a decade since son usurped father in fame and influence, the raw porno-chic style he crafted now a fashion industry standard. But don’t expect Terry Richardson’s erotic work at his show LaForet Museum Harajuku (www.lapnet.jp). There’s certainly plenty of skin, to be sure, but it’s mostly of actor/daredevil Johnny Knoxville and the professional boneheads of MTV reality show Jackass. Richardson documents them in sickeningly vivid colors as they suck down cheap booze, wag their dicks, take hits of nitrous oxide and puke from the overload.

Terry is right there with them, naked and mugging for his own camera, his penis stuffed in a sock. While I’m a big fan of exhibition cosponsor VICE magazine, the younger Richardson’s work, “Terry Richardson X Jackass” gave me a new understanding of the phrase “wasted talent.”

At the Zel Gallery in Roppongi, photos from the elder Richardson’s last road trip are on display. Before his death in 2005, Bob Richardson drove from Los Angeles to New York documenting the journey in stark, black and white photographs. This is an honest and often lonely account of Route 66 Americana, with gas stations, motels and diners shown with the snapshot authenticity of Polaroids found in a parking lot. You can also see prints from his early French Vogue days, before schizophrenia nearly took his life and his work away from him forever.

With these two shows, consider this a unique opportunity to compare both father and son’s work — and how each represents the culture that created them.