- Noritoshi Hirakawa
- Virtue in Vice
each signed, dated, titled, and numbered 3/4
- chromogenic print, in seven parts
- each: 60 by 40 in.
- 152.4 by 101.6 cm.
- Executed in 1997.
Other examples exhibited:
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, 1997
Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan, 1998
Taka Ishii Gallery, Santa Monica, 1998
Kim Foster, Elbow Room, New York, 2000
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"Since the Mayflower took English Puritans to Massachusetts in 1620, Christianity has been dominated by American religion and culture. Today, many different churches exist all across the United States, particularly on the East Coast. However, modern society seems to have superficially erased culture and religion. When I observe social phenomena in the United States, I feel that Americans (the younger generation included) are profoundly committed to Christianity, but that this commitment is somewhat confused or even unconscious.
I believe that people in America today are becoming more aware of this problem and contradictions associated with abstinence and spiritual contact with God. In order to change the concept of the mortal sin into something positive, and to obtain a more open minded vision of Christianity, I propose an ironic transformation of Christianity into the religion of Vice. I thus consider the betrayal of Christian values as Virtue. Only through a process of reversal can we understand that human spirituality and physiology are inseparable." - Noritoshi Hirakawa
Noritoshi Hirakawa is a trickster artist cum cultural critic par excellence. Loathe to address social paradox and hypocrisy through neatly contained, saccharine representations, Hirakawa rips away the "good life" myth of contemporary American culture with images that are often raw in their focus upon sex, ecstasy, death, and personal truths. The artist's work invites a deep examination of one's own moral fortitude, value system, and prejudices.
The artist's Virtue in Vice photographs seem to present the absolutely mundane: seven young women standing in front of seven churches. They are large-scale works, but the photographs evoke nothing more than street photography or standard tourist pictures. Nothing seems wrong here, until the viewer gets to the companion wall labels which are integral to the work: standing casually before an unremarkable church façade, each of the young women is at that moment being gratified by a battery-powered sex toy. Although the ecstatic vibrations of the sexual device are hidden beneath each subject's skirt, the message Virtue in Vice delivers is that religion and hypocrisy often go hand-in-hand. Hirakawa challenges the viewer's expectations and preconceptions, suggesting that perception, belief and 'truth' may be very different things indeed.