Salon de Mass-age is the latest show on view at 66 Orchard the project space of Shin Gallery in the Lower East Side. The exhibition which is on view until November 9th, features the work of photographer Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Nobuyoshi Araki. Somewhere between an installation and a performance, this exhibit poses complex questions about eroticism, sexuality, the grotesque and taboo. Within Salon de Mass-age, issues of public and private space are also explored through the photography of Schwarzkogler and Araki but in very diverse ways.
The viewer is confronted head on with a myriad of images that depict sexuality and the human condition in thought provoking and provocative ways. As you enter the exhibit, you encounter five hundred Polaroids of women in various erotic poses and stances by Araki on the linoleum floor. From here the installation opens up into four separate massage booths.
Each booth is equipped with a massage table, beaded curtain, and a small folding table with a basket that contains baby oil, Kleenex, small hand towel, Windex and paper towels. On the walls both Schwarzkogler and Araki’s art hangs on opposite sides. The pairing of images helps to underscore the larger themes of the show but also points towards issues of performativity, pain, pleasure, private/place and how all these elements come together within the social space of the massage parlor.
It is the versatile backgrounds of both artists which helps to create this idea of a suspended reality within the confines of the massage parlor and their work. On a first walk through of the space Araki’s and Schwarzkogler’s images do not seem out of the ordinary at all. It is only through closer inspection that the complexities of both their projects come through and the larger dialogue their photographs have created.
Born in 1940 in Tokyo, Araki has gone onto become one of Japan’s most revered and controversial photographers. Arkari’s work explores female eroticism, death, and depicting life in Japan. Araki came of age as a photographer in the 1960’s which in many ways would come to be the heyday of the art form. Araki’s photographs are part of numerous museum collections across the globe including the Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
Although Schwarzkogler also works with photography, his relationship to the medium is very different than Araki. In the 1960’s Schwarzkogler became active within the Viennese Actionist movement which predicated the body at the core of the art making process. Working in a conceptual vein, Schwarzkogler would go on to create paintings, photographs and performances that directly address the corporeality of the body, pain, and self-mutilation.
Although both artists work is bringing very different components to the table, they are forcing a larger conversation to be had around sex, pain, social spaces and attitudes on these topics. This is one of the more exciting shows on view so far this gallery season and challenges art goers to think beyond the spaces of the gallery walls.
Nobuyoshi Araki and Rudolf Schwartzkolger: Salon de Mass-Age
Orchard 66 Project (Shin Gallery Project Space)
66 Orchard street, NYC
September 9 – Nov 1, 2015
Writing by Anni Irish
Photographs provided by Danielle Faulkner and Paul Latislaw