2.19.18 / New York / New York

‘The Incomplete Araki’ Places the Artist’s Work Into a New Social Context (NSFW)

[Juergen Teller, ‘Araki No.1’ Tokyo 2004]

If the artists job is to capture the essence of humanity, then Nobuyoshi Araki finds the human condition in its most bound (and ironically, unbound) form. It might be why bondage exists as an erotic release – forcing yourself into constraints to expose deep feelings of helplessness. But it’s a little uninspiring trying to pin down the meaning behind Araki’s work, especially with the persona he has developed over the years. That’s precisely the challenge at the new retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Sex, ‘The Incomplete Araki: Sex, Life, and Death in the Works of Nobuyoshi Araki.’ It’s the largest ever exhibit of Araki’s work in the United States, and with everything happening in American social politics, it provides a complex view of his oeuvre.

For him it’s undoubtedly fun, and even if it no longer breaks the rules (though one photograph featuring urine was held up at customs ahead of the exhibit opening for its obscenity) his photos still reach the outer edges of society. To many, this still satisfies ideas of vulgarity, and his gleeful character who sometimes appears in the photos themselves, does little to help. Even more challenging is a note on one of the walls that explains a recent sexual assault allegation in contrast to Araki’s many consensual encounters. Again the viewers are forced to consider the relationship between artist and subject, especially when the work is so explicit, and how to look back on a large body of already controversial work. In the wake of female-driven movements it’s still to be seen how Araki will be interpreted and analyzed in the future, and so it’s appropriate that the exhibit is titled ‘The Incomplete Araki.’ Despite it’s volume (the exhibit is across 3 floors) this is still just a snapshot of a career provocateur, and it poses the questions necessary for an introspective understanding of our current social climate.

‘The Incomplete Araki: Sex, Life, and Death in the Works of Nobuyoshi Araki’ is on view at the Museum of Sex through August 31st

[‘Flowers Yamorinski and Bondage Woman,’ 2007]

[‘KaoRi Love,’ 2007 Diptych]

[‘Marvelous Tales of Black Ink-Bokuj½ Kitan 068,’ 2007]

[‘Personal Sentimentalism in Photography,’ 2000]

[‘Sentimental Journey,’ 1971-2012]

[‘Kinbaku Bondage,’ 1979]

[‘As Lovers,’ 1997]