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(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)September 4, 2002

(Mahwah) – The series Tokyo Totems: Selected Images – 1997 to 2000, a collaborative project by photographers Steven Skopik and Danny Guthrie, will open in the Kresge Gallery at Ramapo College of New Jersey Wednesday, September 18. An opening reception is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. and an artists’ talk is at 6 p.m. The exhibit will run through October 16.

Tokyo Totems combines traditionally wrought photographs of urban Japan with digitally collaged non-photo-based graphic elements culled from a wide range of sources, including print media, product packaging, books, pamphlets, newspapers and archaic Japanese calligraphic texts. In these pictures, the streets of Tokyo confront the viewer – particularly the western viewer – with an intriguing palimpsest of traditional and contemporary architecture, infrastructural objects and commercial signage,” says Skopik, who continues, This visual environment may at first seem strikingly exotic to Anglo audiences, but its chief fascination resides in the manner in which it makes plain Japan’s thorough embrace of global consumer culture. Superficially these are images of Japan, but ultimately they are a refracted and amplified vision of an increasingly homogenized, trans-national post-industrial economic order.”

According to curator David Freund, a photographer and professor at Ramapo College, who wrote about the exhibit:

On one level it shows angled views of Tokyo streets that suggest a city that has grown, as need dictates, rather than on the predetermined basis of a rational Western grid. Evident is an eclectic intersection of architecture, traditional and modern, Japanese and Western, and a similar mixture of kanji and English signage. The bits of sky visible are festooned with power lines, and nature is represented only in specimen form. A silence is conveyed by the absence of people in this normally crowded nation, although their presence is implied by the consistent presence of vehicles, mostly bicycles. . . Layered on are additional elements, at once linguistic and formal, undecipherable instructions and directions that might inform us but don’t, except in terms of their general function. These are amplified at the edge of each photograph by kanji in elegant, colored, often textured backgrounds that evoke the refinement of sumi-e paintings, even though we can often infer that their message refers merely to mundane commerce or public transportation.

Danny Guthrie is an associate professor of photography at Michigan State University where he has taught for five years. Prior to arriving at MSU he taught for 20 years at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. Besides producing and exhibiting his own photography, he has been involved in various curatorial efforts including serving as guest curator at The Kresge Art Museum and Michigan State University in 1998 for a History of Photography exhibition. At Ithaca, Guthrie was the director of the photography gallery from l984 to 1997. Among other issues, these exhibitions have explored contemporary photographic practice in color photography and representations of gender. Guthrie’s own work has explored the above two themes of gender and color as well as photography as a visual diary. Through the 1990s his work explored, investigated and compared the visual construction of both the urban and so-called natural landscapes. His photographs have been exhibited in Canada and locations throughout the United States.

Steven Skopik is an associate professor of photography in the Cinema and Photography Department at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. He has exhibited his photographic work in numerous group and solo shows across the United States. He has been the recipient of the LightWorks Photographers Grant and an Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Skopik is the author of Photography and the Fifties” for an upcoming issue of History of Photography, The Idea of Photography” in the Spring 2002 issue of History of Photography, and No Place Like Home” in the July/August 2000 Afterimage.

The Kresge Gallery is located in the Angelica and Russ Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact Gallery Director Sydney Jenkins, (201) 684-7147.

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Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice, and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others. Ramapo College is also distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by CollegesofDistinction.com, boasts the best campus housing in New Jersey on Niche.com, and is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools.

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, Educational Technology, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education.

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