Chicago, Tokyo and Kolkata
Photography show by Alan Thomas
from 3rd to 12th May 2012,
at Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Calcutta - 700 025.
Beyond the entertainment districts, the pachinko parlours and the crowded department stores, Japanese cities are uncannily silent. Walking through their stillness, one begins to discern the peculiar geometries of urban Japan. These photographs take the measure of Japan's spaces where they are most easily overlooked - the vernacular architecture of its backstreets, the layered density of neighbourhoods, the ephemeral effects of constant building and rebuilding. I have photographed in Japan since the mid-1980s but it was not until a third extended visit in 1997 that I began to recognize a visual logic in Japan’s ordinary city spaces. These photographs are a set of formal solutions to the problem of a traveller’s disorientation, solutions drawn from the everyday structures of cities.
Like many places supporting a large daily influx of cars, Chicago has made way for a series of gaps in its fabric. Its downtown is riddled with self-park garages - structures often occupying half a city block or more, towering far above street level, and yet, conspicuous in nothing so much as their emptiness and banality. To be sure, Chicago’s demand for parking structures has inspired designs by some distinguished architects. Bertrand Goldberg’s Jetson-style spiral decks at the base of his Marina City towers are the most startling part of those iconic buildings. Stanley Tigerman’s car-grill façade enlivens the garage at 60 E. Lake Street (its hood ornament is visible in my Lake & Wabash # 1, 2006). But my interest lies more in the generic garages that proliferate in Chicago and exploring what they are good for photographically.
Alan Thomas is a publisher and photographer based in Chicago. His photographs explore the ways that the inhabited landscape affects our sense of the present and the past. He has exhibited at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago and other venues. This is his first solo exhibition and includes work from the past fifteen years, ranging from Japanese urban landscapes to photographs of Chicago and recent images from Kolkata.