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Araki on Sex, Death and What Comes After

At the age of 74, photographer Nobuyoshi Araki continues to inspire, amaze and, at times, shock. The exhibition now on view at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, “ARAKI Ojo Shashu-Photography for the After Life: Alluring Hell,” is no exception. The show includes “PARADISE,” the photographer’s new series of images of flowers and plastic toys, and also his rarely seen 2008 series “Alluring Hell,” a collection of black-and-white erotic photos that he’s painted on. Combined with images made earlier in Araki’s career, the exhibition offers a broad perspective on this celebrated artist. The show is also the inspiration for the winter issue of Foam magazine, which looks at Araki’s influence on contemporary photography around the world.

Among the most famous—or notorious—series included in the show is Araki’s series of photos on Kinbaku, rope bondage. But in his career he’s published more than 450 photo books, encompassing street photos of Tokyo and his life with his late wife, Yoko, and their cat. The title of the Foam exhibition, which was shown in a slightly different form in Tokyo last year, comes from the Japanese-Buddhist book Ojoyoshu, which depicts both heaven and hell. The polarities of the mundane and the transcendent, the banal and the spiritual, light and dark, and life and decay run throughout the show. The text accompanying the show suggests that Araki’s growing fascination with the afterlife, as expressed in his recent series, may represent the preoccupations of “an artist in the dusk of his life,” but luckily for us, Araki’s creativity shows no signs of slowing down. – Holly Stuart Hughes

ARAKI Ojo Shashu – Photography for the After Life: Alluring Hell” is currently on view through March 11, 2015 at Foam in Amsterdam.

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