Thursday, February 22, 2018

Burk Frey reviews Michiko Kon

     Michiko Kon (1955-) is a contemporary still life photographer from Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. She attended Tokyo Photographic College from 1978-80 and has since earned collections and shows worldwide. Kon is best known for her monochrome images centered on surprising (and sometimes grotesque) juxtapositions of human-made objects with sea creatures. They address life and death, standards of aesthetics, and sexuality.

     Her newer work is less obvious, leaving more interpretation up to the viewer; nonetheless, I still found that her older images are more striking “objects of interest” even as they lack in ambiguity. Three of those older images are below, while a fourth one I liked (The Red Boot) is transitional while still hewing much closer to the old style.

Salmon, Flatfish, and High Heel (1987)

Goldfish, Salmon Roe, and Toothbrush (1985)

Cuttlefish and Sneaker (1989)

     I suspect that these images were even more arresting / shocking when they were created in the 1980s, but they still take me out of my comfort zone. 

     There is a certain “ick” factor in them, which is made more interesting because it directly contrasts with a feeling of mundanity that comes right before it. After all, these seem to be normal objects… but at second glance, Kon has twisted their presentation in some dark fashion or other. With a hint of sadism, she seems to enjoy this back-and-forth pushing and pulling of viewers’ expectations. I think the images succeed on that merit.

The Red Boot (1995)

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