by Jonathan M. Reynolds. University of Hawai'i Press, February 2015. 316 p. ill. ISBN 9780824839246 (cl.), $45.00.
Reviewed September 2015
In Allegories of Time and Space: Japanese Identity in Photography and Architecture, author Jonathan M. Reynolds brings together seemingly disparate artists, designers, and projects into a cohesive monograph exploring the themes of a perceived "homelessness" in post-war Japan. While the book mainly examines photography and architecture, one important commonality among the projects described is that they were mass-produced in one form or another, including reproductions in books, films, and advertisements. This is particularly noteworthy, as some of the central themes explored in this volume are those of modernization and consumer culture.
Works examined in the book span from the 1940s to the 1980s. After World War II, Japan saw increasing levels of modernization and westernization, particularly in urban centers. This left many Japanese viewed through the lens of an attempted recapturing of Japanese cultural identity, often through a critique of modernity or a deliberate seeking out of traditional values by the artist or designer. Photographers accomplished this through the capturing of rural communities that had not yet exhibited signs of westernization and by depicting consequences of modernization, such as atom bomb victims. Traditional architecture is deconstructed through a modernizing camera lens and new architecture is influenced by ancient Japanese pottery. One chapter is devoted to the perceived nomadism of young women in modern Tokyo, describing advertisements, as well as an art installation and a work of fiction devoted to the topic. This reiterates the theme of homelessness and lack of cultural identity.
Also included in the volume are descriptions of writings that are pertinent to the discussion of Japanese visual culture, including fiction, essays, and philosophy. The author carefully places all of these works into historical context, offering helpful background information on Japanese history.
The volume is well-written and illustrated, though mostly in black and white and not profusely so. Allegories of Time and Space would be appropriate for libraries within colleges and universities that teach Asian or Japanese art history at the upper-level undergraduate and graduate level.