Art + Poetry | LJ Reviews

Kenna, Michael & Yvonne Meyer-Lohr. Forms of Japan: Michael Kenna. Prestel. 2015. 304p. photos. ISBN 9783791381626. $75. PHOTOG

formsofjapan.jpg22316British photographer Kenna is well known for his gorgeous black-and-white landscape photographs often shot with long exposures, creating images with an ethereal quality that beckons both nostalgia and mystery. Though this is a beautifully printed book of his photographs, it is not an artist’s monograph. Rather, Kenna’s work is used to present an idealized perspective of Japan’s landscape. Designer Meyer-Lohr wrote the text and organized the hundreds of photographs around five themes: sea, land, trees, spirit, and sky. There is a brief introduction to each theme with haikus from Japanese poets interspersed with the photos. The minimalism in Kenna’s images abstracts the vast, often snowy landscape or Zen gardens while simultaneously capturing the organic movement of oceans, clouds, and trees. The book concludes with a brief statement from the photographer and selected reading on photography, Japanese art, and poetry. VERDICT This oversize book will appeal to fans of traditional landscape photography, but they will have to go elsewhere to learn about Kenna’s process and technique. Those new to his work will benefit from A 20 Year Retrospective. General readers interested in Japanese scenery or aesthetics will also appreciate.—­Shannon Marie Robinson, Drexel Univ. Libs., Philadelphia

Sassen, Viviane (text & photos). Viviane Sassen: Umbra. Prestel. 2015. 196p. ISBN 9783791381602. $65. PHOTOG

vivienne.jpg22416Accompanying a solo exhibition, this lavishly illustrated, oversize book consists mostly of color reproductions of photos taken by acclaimed photographer Sassen. It explores the common theme of umbra, or shadow, in her works: for the artist, shadow serves as a metaphor for an array of themes and symbols, including anxiety and desire and memory and hope for the future. Her images may be characterized by the interplay between realism and abstraction, dramatic use of light, shadow, and color, as well by croppings and interventions. Set alongside 11 poems by the Dutch writer, poet, and artist Maria Barnas, which similarly examine shadow and may make reference to particular images in Sassen’s photographs, this publication lacks other critical documentation and commentary pertaining to the artist’s life, works, and career. Devoid of more analytical content, it is almost entirely a visual and poetic presentation pertaining to a particular theme. VERDICT Of interest to photographers, art aficionados, and others, this photobook with poems is recommended for some large public, academic, and special library art book collections.—Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia

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