Kazuo Kitai

Students Workers Villagers 1964-1978

Sep 10 - Oct 24, 2015

New York July 15, 2015 --- From September 10 to October 24, 2015, MIYAKO YOSHINAGA is pleased to present KAZUO KITAI: Students, Workers, Villagers 1964-1978, featuring over 30 modern and vintage gelatin silver print photographs by Kazuo Kitai. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held Thursday, September 10, 6-8pm. 

With a quietly eloquent personal style, Kazuo Kitai (b. 1944) has chronicled a half-century of Japan’s shifting social landscapes. His work defined a new standard for documentary photography. This exhibition features Kitai’s own selection of 28 images from six different series created between 1964 and 1978 (Resistance, Kobe Dockers, Barricade, Sanrizuka, Somehow Familiar Places, and To the Villages). Recently printed on “aging process” photo paper, these prints exude a nostalgic warmth while maintaining superior archival quality.  In addition, the exhibition also features ten rare vintage prints, some of which will be included in a forthcoming book published by Nazraeli Press.

In 1964, as a free-spirited 20-year-old college student, Kitai photographed a series of face-offs between antigovernment demonstrators and riot squads, capturing the raw energy of mass movements on aged films. The following year, Kitai self-published his first book entitled Teiko (Resistance), and in 1965, he himself became involved with the student movement.  In 1968, he documented the occupation of a Nihon University building from an insider’s perspective. His subjects included painted slogans along with common objects i.e. umbrella, shoes, a clothes hanger -- reminders of ordinary life amidst the chaos. Over the next two years he lived among the farmers of the Sanrizuka village in Narita at the peak of their resistance to the construction of the new international airport.

A turning point for Kitai’s career came at the end of the 1960s when he departed from the prevailing trend to document city life and began traveling to the remote countryside to photograph ordinary people’s lives.  He photographed children, women and the elderly (adult males had mostly gone to work in the cities), while his wide-angle lens tenderly embraced their environment -- a sparsely populated landscape with an old-fashioned farmhouse, a wooden utility pole, a one-man ferry boat—all on the verge of transformation during the rapid economic growth in 1970s Japan. His well-known reportage To the Villages was published from 1974 for more than three years in the monthly Asahi Camera and earned him the first Ihei Kimura Prize in 1976.  

Kazuo Kitai was born in 1944 in Anshan, Manchuria while it was under Japanese occupation. After World War II he grew up in Tokyo and spent his high school years in Kobe. He studied photography briefly at Nihon University in Tokyo. Though he has always been well respected in the artistic community, Kitai’s reputation has recently been enhanced by a host of new publications and exhibitions. His work was included in Martin Parr’s The Protest Box in 2011, and Harper’s Books published Barricade designed by John Gossage in 2012. The same year Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography organized his career retrospective, and a series of new books of his early works have been published in Japan by Tosei-sha and Zen Foto Gallery.  Kitai’s work is also included in a new American museum exhibition For A New World To Come: Experiments of Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979 at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Mar. 7 – Jul. 12, 2015); the Grey Art Gallery (Sep. 11– Dec. 5, 2015); Japan Society (Oct. 9 – Jan. 11, 2016).  A gallery exhibition of his work will be held this August at Zen Foto Gallery and Zeit Foto Salon in Tokyo. His work is represented by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Art Institute of Chicago, and numerous Japanese institutions.  

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Zen Foto Gallery, Tokyo. An exhibition catalog with an essay by Janet Koplos is available upon request.  MIYAKO YOSHINAGA is dedicated to mounting a series of important solo exhibitions by contemporary Japanese photographers.  To this end, the gallery recently organized the successful exhibitions Eikoh Hosoe: Curated Body 1959-1970 (2013) and Issei Suda: Life In Flower 1970-1979 (2014). 

  • solo exhibition