Daido Moriyama (b. 1938, Osaka) is worldwide known as the father of street photography in Japan and as an avant-garde provocateur. With his black and white photography, he documented the urban life in Tokyo at the time of a postwar Japanese cultural shift of the 1960s and ’70s, as traditional values eroded in the face of strengthening American influences. Referring to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road as his great influence, Moriyama inherited the philosophy of a ceaseless vagabond, who roams Japan and stalks its streets for unexpected encounters. Characterized by a raw a gritty gaze, his work pushes photography to its limits, showcasing a dark side of Japanese city life, amongst the chaos of everyday existence. His photographs focus on what is discarded, odd, and erotic, often looking predatory and yet being saturated by a melancholic beauty of life at its most ordinary.
Erotic photography straddles the line between art and tawdry, a line that is very easy to cross. Yet erotic works of Daido Moriyama remain on the enigmatic side of obscenity. Lips and Tights – Tokyo Bar is an exhibition combining the series Tights and Lips to which Moriyama took images over the course of his career. These images are at once undeniably erotic and dramatic, yet enigmatic in their intention. Speaking of the Americanisation of post-war Japan and the increasing eroticism of photographic advertising, simultaneously forcing the eye to dwell on elements of form that otherwise might go unnoticed.
The series Tights has expanded on from How to Create a Beautiful Picture 6: Tights in Shimotakaido from 1987. Here, legs in fishnets captured from up close, lose their sense of proportion, blurring into abstraction with a stab of desire. Lips personify the artist’s fascination with the raw, the sensuous, and the erotic. These images exemplify the delirious euphoria that pervades his practice with the element of fantasy and dream. The glossy lips of a billboard model, a face staring from the page of a discarded newspaper, a woman’s profile reflected in a train window. Although often claustrophobically cropped, these images are difficult to forget and pull the viewer in.