Toyo Tsuchiya is best known for his photographs of NYC’s Lower East Side art scene in the 1980’s, and as a progenitor of the legendary Rivington School. The snap shots that were selected for the exhibit at Van Der Plas Gallery, reveal Toyo’s search for human connection and identity through more personal images of family groups, friends and neighbors. This show also features larger-than-life charcoal drawings that depict subjects from past photographs, as well as people found in images from newspapers, magazines and the collections of other American photographers. The large size of the drawings conveys the power these individuals have assumed through memory.
Tsuchiya was born near Mt. Fuji in Japan, and grew up in Kyushu and Yokohama. After graduating from the Kanagawa Ken Technical High School for Industrial Design he began his career as an artist. Living in Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo, Tsuchiya studied and exhibited paintings, drawings and collage within a small circle of the 1970’s art world in Tokyo. In the late 70’s he turned to photography, and soon moved to New York City. Living in NY’s Lower East Side since 1980, Tsuchiya photographed what was happening around him – the people, performance art, and the Lower East Side art scene, and especially the legendary underground movement of the collaborative Rivington School. He was a creative force behind the No Se No Social Club, the stage for many art happenings, including the 99 Nights, a marathon of free performances and exhibitions. In his photographs,Tsuchiya captured the style, energy, and free-spirited creativity of the event, and perhaps most importantly, contextualized these happenings in a fine-art lineage. One of the pieces, a 72” X 105” print depicts the Rivington Sculpture Garden, which Tsuchiya painted white to commemorate the death of a homeless resident.
Tsuchiya photographed the great performances of the era, including Stelarc, Jack Smith, Tehching Hsieh, Monty Cantsin and Karen Black, to name a few. He also curated shows with now notable artists like Ai Weiwei. Being in one of Tsuchiya’s photographs was instant street-cred. Holland Cotter reported that Tsuchiya’s images “feel like reports of life on another, hipper planet, of which little trace would remain were it not for his persistent and attentive recording eye.” His work has, as Tsuchiya acknowledges, “become part of the underground history of the LES art and life of the 80s. All of my intention and passion of the 80s remains in those images.”
In the late 1990s, Tsuchiya made The Courts, a series of 180 photographs of a basketball court shot from his studio window over the course of a year. He also completed Families and Friends, a series of over 100 photos from the East Village, Alphabet City, and the Lower East Side of personal friends, family members, and street denizens.
In recent years, Tsuchiya has turned to collage, drawing, and mixed media. In one series, he redacted and graffitied personal ads from the Village Voice and other publications with collages and prints.
Tsuchiya continues to explore new media and outlets for his relentless creativity.