Kohei Yoshiyuki at Yossi Milo



The last time Kohei Yoshiyuki's photographic series "The Park" was exhibited, nearly thirty years ago, the images were blown up to life-size, the gallery lights were shut off, and viewers were provided flashlights. It was the perfect metaphor for what they were about to discover, inch by slow inch: couples—heterosexual and homosexual—overtly trysting in various parks at night while covetously watched by bystanders.

This presentation wisely does away with the heavy-handed gallery-as-nighttime-park gimmick (if we're looking, we're all voyeurs!), but loses none of the images'—now sixteen by twenty inches—raw power as cinema verité. Strikingly, though not surprisingly, given the long-standing nature of gender politics in Japan, the couples in the heterosexual portion of the series are almost always thronged by leering men. But these are no Peeping Toms behind binoculars, but rather voyeurs brazen enough to intrude physically, as though the women on the grass were common property. Was it so difficult to have sex behind closed doors in 1970s Japan, or was the display and interference somehow part of the parks' appeal? One couple's paltry attempt at privacy behind an open umbrella—which only attracts gropers from the other side—tempts one to believe the latter. So, too, does the availability of rooms-by-the-hour "love hotels," whose activities Yoshiyuki documented in his companion project, "Love Hotel," 1978. The grainy vagueness of these still images, taken from hotel clients' sex videotapes, alternately invites and frustrates, underscoring all the more forcefully that the truth about eros lies not in what you get to see, but, ultimately, in what you fail to.

Artforum.com, October 13, 2007