Kansuke Yamamoto


The son of an amateur pictorialist photographer, Yamamoto Kansuke first studied French poetry and literature in Tokyo while he experimented with creative collages and photography influenced by European Surrealism and in particular Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte and Man Ray. At the end of the 1930s, he became a member of the avant-garde artistic movement, VOU and helped establish the Nagoya Foto Avant-Garde which encouraged innovative photography. Yamamoto Kansuke pioneered a poetic and elaborate signature style that merged European-inspired Surrealist iconography with distinctly Japanese motifs and concerns. The Japanese photographer appreciated Surrealism’s anti-establishment and anti-war positions as well as its bizarre takes on the human subconscious: ‘Artwork comes out of some disobedient spirit against readymade things of society. … Pure spirit should be a proactive spirit that attracts a new generation … Rebellion against each generation and the reformation of a generation is our purpose.’ These characteristics threatened Japanese Surrealists with imprisonment while Western members of the movement strongly denied to bestow them with legitimacy. Yamamoto Kansuke nonetheless continued to create dark and complex works that reflected on freedom – often symbolized by the birdcage motif – and war as he addressed World War II with his Premonition of Genocide


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