possibly ferrotyped, signed and with annotation 'TSG Catalogue #93' by Toshio Yamamoto, the photographer's son, in pencil and the photographer's credit, copyright, and estate stamps, dated '53,' in pencil on the reverse, cornered to a mount, embossed, stamped, and annotated 'TSG Catalogue #93' by Toshio Yamamoto in pencil on the mount, framed, 1953
12¼ by 10 in. (31.1 by 25.4 cm.)
This early print is in generally excellent condition. When examined in high raking light, minor pitting and hairline scratches are visible overall indicating that the surface may be ferrotyped. Upon close inspection in raking light, the following are visible: a sharp crease at the center-right; a few soft creases, mostly in the upper portion; a one-3/4-inch scratch in the lower portion of the image which does not appear to break the emulsion; and very minor silvering in the darkest areas near the edges. There is a tiny deposit of original retouching at the upper center, on the birdcage.
There is some minor soiling on the reverse.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Judith Keller and Amanda Maddox, eds., Japan's Modern Divide: the Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013), pl. 70 (this print)
Legend of a Buddhist Temple (by Kansuke Yamamoto)
a birdcage without a bird and
from a garden without a birdcage with a bird
countless sparks rise up
like a Hindu saint’s apocalypse
along the line of the white Coliseum
shaking the even more grotesque Colossus
sending a sign of the night’s festival
the body writhes like a hummingbird
leaning a cheek on the fingers of a heathen
giving a fierce numbness
(from Kokaku, 1940)
Attentive to international developments in artistic practices of his time, Yamamoto incorporated Surrealism and photocollage into his work from the early 1930s. It is important to note, however, that ‘. . . Yamamoto did not cavalierly adopt the expressive technique of collage from the European avant-garde; he did not use collage for merely its aesthetic and stylistic elements. Rather, he was able to show that this technique was well suited for sharp social criticism, and he used it in the specific context of Japan’ (Japan's Modern Divide, Ryuichi Kaneko, p. 164). He conveyed his political views and critique of contemporary Japanese society through his creative output, which included photographs, poems, newspaper articles, translations and his teaching, and strongly believed in Surrealism as a powerful political weapon.
The birdcage is a recurring motif in Yamamoto’s photography and poetry. He thought of the bird as the most advanced of all beings because it has the ability and freedom to fly. The present image of the cage, its rusty bars mangled and burned, is overlaid on a Japanese city to create an image evocative of the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb. As ‘housing’ for an animal, the cage is connected to the human houses underneath, alluding to the entrapment of the unseen population of the city below. In this work and many of his other Surrealist photocollages, Yamamoto communicates his frustration with the Japanese state of mind, regulations of freedom and free expression, and the postwar occupation of U. S. military forces. Despite its often somber implications, Yamamoto’s bird/birdcage symbolism perhaps carries some hopeful undertones. The cage in the photocollage as well as in the poem above, is decidedly empty; no bird is caught inside, suggesting that there is hope for Japan and its people. ‘Yamamoto was trying to wake up Japan in order to encourage it to dream’ (Ibid., Amanda Maddox, p. 202).