*But if you are at work and looking, I promise not to judge you…!
New York’s Museum of Sex is nowhere near the top of my ”places-to-see” list; it didn’t even make it to my ”tourist-traps-but-should-go-at-least-once” list. That was until ”The Incomplete Araki” a major retrospective about the erotic, provocative, sensual, eclectic and deeply, deeply personal work by one of the most notorious photographers of our times came up, back in 2018; it was time to make an exception.
This print originally comes from a 2009 photoshoot with Lady Gaga for Voguy Hommes Japan, and is distinctive because it combined for the first time Gaga’s particular brand of global superstardom and Araki’s signature use of bondage.
In all the ways that Araki chooses to represent himself in his photography – whether it be via self-portrait, metaphor, brushstroke or through documentary practice – perhaps none are so charged as the ones where he seeks to express how his marriage to his wife Y?ko resulted in the most complex and private component of his identity.
”There is a picture of Y?ko sleeping on a boat on the Yanagawa River,” Araki has said, about on of his favourite images from Sentimental Journey. ”It was our honeymoon, so she was exhausted from all the sex. In Japan we say that you cross the Sanzu River when you depart to the ‘other world’. I had no intention of taking a picture like that, so I feel like maybe God or someone made me take that picture. Her posture is like that of a fetus.”
Araki and Y?ko met while they were both employed at the Japanese advertising firm Dentsu, in the late 1960s. They were married in 1971 and for the next 19 years, their relationship – everyday life, sex, their cat Chiro, Y?ko’s sudden diagnosis of ovarian cancer, her illness, her death, her funeral – would be the basis for photographic work infused with intimacy, unabashed directness and a kind of evolving understanding that even the ferocious love Araki felt for Y?ko would end, like all journeys do.
Soft-heeled Shoes, 2013
3D printed Polyjet photopolymers, suede shoes, metal
by Pixy Liao
From the series Vénéneuse
by Amanda Charchian
Museum of Sex, Manhattan
February 18th, 2018