Ishimoto Yasuhiro (b. 1921), trained by Harry Callahan at the Institute of Design (or "New Bauhaus") in Chicago and widely acknowledged as one of the most influential Japanese photographers of his generation in the development of postwar Japanese photography, has donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 289 photographs dating from 1949 to 2005. The MFAH
has purchased an additional 11 works. With this acquisition, the MFAH owns nearly 400 photographs by the artist.
"The MFAH began collecting Ishimoto´s work about ten years ago, when the museum presented the traveling exhibition A Tale of Two Cities, with Ishimoto´s great pictures of Chicago and Tokyo," said MFAH director Dr. Peter C. Marzio. "With this acquisition, the museum´s collection now encompasses works from all of the artist´s major series, including his iconic photographs of Chicago, Tokyo and the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto."
"Ishimoto Yasuhiro brought the New Bauhaus and the American street esthetic to postwar Japanese art," commented Yasufumi Nakamori, the MFAH´s Assistant Curator of Photography and scholar of Ishimoto´s work who initiated the acquisition. "With this acquisition, the museum gains a critical anchor for both its American and its Japanese collections in a single, landmark figure."
Among the 300 photographs that have joined the collection are photographs of canyon-like streets, skyscraper slices and anonymous pedestrians taken during the 1950s in Chicago; works from 1953 and1954 that infuse the 17th-century Imperial villa of Katsura, in Kyoto, with a Modernist esthetic; a 1993 series of photographs depicting the Ise Shrine; and photographs taken in Japan over 50 years, from the mid-1950s through 2005.
A selection of 67 of the newly acquired photographs will be on view at the MFAH beginning Tuesday, May 5, in the exhibition Ways of Seeing: The Photography of Ishimoto Yasuhiro, organized by Yasufumi Nakamori and on view through September 13, 2009. Two exhibitions are slated for spring and summer 2010: for spring, the Ise photographs in the new Gallery of the Arts of Japan; and, for summer, the exhibition focusing on the collaboration of Ishimoto and architect Tange Kenzo who was the photography editor for the 1960 publication.
About the Artist - Ishimoto was born to Japanese parents in San Francisco in 1921, moved to Japan at age three, and then returned to the United States in 1939. While working on a farm, he began studying agriculture at the University of California, but with the advent of World War II, he was sent to an internment camp in Colorado for two years.
It was at the internment camp that Ishimoto learned photography from fellow detainees. In 1944, he was released and moved to Chicago one of the few U.S. cities authorized the second generation Japanese Americans who had once returned to Japan, as it was not a coastal region to study architecture at Northwestern University. He then transferred to the Institute of Design, where he studied with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind.
Ever since, the cities of Chicago and Tokyo and traditional Japanese art and architecture have been among Ishimoto´s major photographic subjects, filtered through his unique ways of seeing, cultivated with the aesthetic principles of the New Bauhaus.
The artist´s career was launched early on when he was tapped by The Museum of Modern Art curator Edward Steichen for the legendary Family of Man exhibition (1955), and over the next 50 years he would exhibit internationally. His work is in the collections of the MFAH, MoMA, The Art Institute of Chicago, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Princeton University Art Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Kochi Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Art, Tokyo.
In 1983, Yasuhiro was awarded Japan´s Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon, and in 1993, the Japanese government also awarded him with the Fourth Order of Merit with the Cordon of the Rising Sun. Most recently, in 1996, the Japanese government named him a "Man of Cultural Distinction."
Major publications of Ishimoto´s work include Someday, Somewhere (1958), Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture (1960 and 1972), Chicago, Chicago (1969), Shibuya, Shibuya (2007), and Composition: Form and Color (2008).
Photography at the MFAH - The photography department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), was founded in 1976 with a donation from Target Stores and with the appointment of Anne Wilkes Tucker as Curator of Photography. Since 1976, the museum has acquired more than 23,000 photographs made on all seven continents, including over 4,000 photographs of the Manfred Heiting Collection (acquired in 2002 and 2004) that span the history of photography. The greatest strengths of the photography collection are twentieth-century American works, images made in Europe between the world wars, and contemporary Latin American and Japanese photography. Interpreting photography broadly, artist books, stereoscopic slides, photo collages, and a wide range of photographic artifacts are also included in the collection.