While many contemporary photographers like to consider themselves risk takers and improvisers in one way or another, few have consistently embraced photographic experimentation as wholeheartedly as Daisuke Yokota.
In the past decade, Yokota has been a whirlwind of process-based exploration, restlessly testing new approaches and churning out photobooks that gather together his results. Some efforts have been expressive and performative, others methodical and iterative. He’s played with rephotography and photocopying, acid and chemical washes, physical intervention with dirt, dust, and hair, and other less decipherable approaches, deliberately breaking down recognizable imagery into uncertainty or building abstractions out of accidents and residues. The through line connecting all this activity has been a structured progression forward, each project building on the lessons learned from his previous tests.
While much of Yokota’s earlier work was an exploration of the nuances and limits of black and white imagery (as seen in his 2014 photobook Vertigo, his 2015 photobook Taratine, and his 2017 photobook Cloud, in recent years, the Japanese photographer has added effervescent color experimentation to his artistic toolbox. 160 sheets brings us up to date with Yokota’s current color investigations, offering a visual explosion of swirled color abstraction.
How Yokota generates some of the effects in these images is a bit of a mystery. Given small circular dots in some of the corners and obvious pulling away from some of the edges, we can assume the compositions are essentially full frame works, scanned and enlarged for publication. Careful looking reveals some small details we can attempt to identify or categorize – cracked, peeled, or crumpled emulsions; fingerprints; bubbled chemicals; sticky residues from sandwiched negatives; scrape marks; and crusty surface debris. In a sense, the techniques are visually reminiscent of the kind of interventions and distortions Lucas Samaras was making to Polaroid prints in the 1970s, but amplified and pushed much further toward abstract extremes and breaking points.