Toshio Shibata: Water Colors - An exhibition of 22 photographs by this master landscape photographer, all celebrating the interplay of water and light. Taken between 2005 and 2014, using a large format camera, these images further Shibata’s career-long meditation on the intersection of man and nature. Long exposures transform water cascading down spillways into silk. Short exposures capture the rippling effect of wind skimming across a reservoir.
Shibata’s pictures revel in water’s dynamic range, from turbulent to gentle, as it negotiates deftly engineered landscapes designed to guide it's flow. In Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture (2007), a man-made river the color of pewter flows over a succession of waterfalls surrounded by a golden landscape. In Tsuyama City, Okayama Prefecture (2014), forest-green water reflecting the surrounding trees is bisected by a necklace of orange buoys.
Trained as a painter, Shibata brings an unerring eye for composition and color: streams of water seem at times like strokes flowing from a painter’s brush. Interestingly, the sky is never glimpsed directly in these landscapes, yet its spectrum of color, its moods and weather, are reflected across these pictures’ liquid surfaces. As we see water flowing across man-made landscapes, it becomes clear that it is an element never mastered, only danced with.
Shibata was born in Tokyo in 1949, and at first studied painting and print-making. However, by 1979 he settled on photography as his medium. Shibata had his New York debut at the Museum of Modern Art in 1992, as part of their New Photography series. The Laurence Miller Gallery hosted his first one-person show here in early 1993, and has represented him ever since. Many museums around the world have featured Shibata’s work in solo shows, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Sprengel Museum, Hanover; the Centre National de Photographie, Paris; and in the United States – the Cleveland Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. In 2012, the National Arts Center in Tokyo staged an expansive two-person exhibition of works by Toshio Shibata and the late painter Toeko Tatsuno.