A camera is a time-stopping instrument. A photograph, evidence of that stoppage. Just as with any tool however, a camera may be used in an unintended way, sometimes in a diametrically opposed manner. Shinichi Maruyama, in his exhibition Nude, now showing until December 21stat Bruce Silverstein Gallery, uses the camera as an apparatus with which to extend time. The photograph comes to represent not a single moment, but continuity, seamlessness. Nude catches a dancer in the act of performance, each photograph a specific sequence of movements, a unique dance. Yet, nudity, the act of being unclothed, infuses the exhibition with complexities as amorphous and arresting as Maruyama’s depiction of these choreographed arrangements: Nude questions and challenges the traditional thoughts surrounding intimacy, power, and the spirit behind artistic expression.
First and foremost, Maruyama is masterful at capturing the artistry inherent in dance. Soft lines coalesce into surrealistic, geometrical shapes, emphasizing the dancer’s athleticism and physical presence in space. Upon first glance, it is surprising how large the parameters of a choreographed dance really are, forming, in a sense, a womb in which the dancer is safe to express him/herself. And immediately, we strike at the heart of Nude.
Artistic expression is such a diaphanous term, fragile, yet possessing a malleable strength in its relationship to almost any human endeavor. ‘What is art?’ is a question akin to the interrogative of why human beings exist in the first place; so, while an all-appeasing answer may not be possible, Nude seems to suggest that art is art when it is done for no person except for the one who is producing it. Each photograph, which comprises thousands of individual frames brought together, contains a black background against which the dancer pours out his/her artistic energy. There is nowhere for the dancer to hide, nothing within which to blend. The artist is left nude, isolated in a vacuous space built only to house each specific dance.
Viewing the exhibition feels like a breach of privacy, as if the dancer would be performing regardless of spectators’ appreciation or awareness. In this sense, the dancer is unclothed, revealed for his/her basic existence, and, since the human form is no longer intelligible, he/she is judged solely on the merits of his/her artistic output. Despite the seeming blurriness, it is interesting how each dance evokes a familiar object. Nude # 2, for example, clearly resembles a bird with the protruding feet of a human being, conjuring up visions of Garuda in Hindu mythology, or the harpies of Ancient Grecian lore. Regardless of the numerous possible interpretations, Maruyama’s Nude taps into a transcendent energy that is at the center of artistic expression.
Text by Paul Longo