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Ken Kitano: our face – prayers

Tomoko Sawada: My Faces

February 26–April 25, 2015

32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY


Installation Views

Selected Works

Pace/MacGill Gallery is pleased to present Ken Kitano: our face - prayers and Tomoko Sawada: My Faces, on view from February 26 through April 25, 2015. In their debut exhibitions at the gallery, Japanese photographers Ken Kitano and Tomoko Sawada examine the formation of social, cultural, and personal identity through portraiture. The public is invited to attend an opening reception with the artists on Thursday, February 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

Recognized for her themed series of staged self-portraits, Tomoko Sawada investigates the malleability of identity through the constant transformation of her physical appearance. Conceptual in nature and often grid-like in format, her photographic works raise questions about social conformity, individualism, and femininity. In This is Who I Am, 2011, Sawada repeatedly appears in front of the camera in the same blue turtleneck, but varying makeup and hairstyles. Initially published as a children's book, the series of 36 color images considers the relationship between internal identity and external appearances. In Recruit/Black, 2006, she addresses the homogeneity of the corporate world by presenting herself as 100 hopeful, young professionals clad in black suits, mimicking the passport-sized photos required for job applications.

Sawada's most recent body of work, Sign, 2012, inventively employs her signature style to examine branding as a form of portraiture and international identity. Produced in collaboration with Heinz during a residency at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tomato Ketchup, 2012 presents a 56-image grid of the unmistakable condiment bottle with the text of its label translated into 56 different languages. As Heinz has rarely translated "Tomato Ketchup" for worldwide sales, Sawada crowd-sourced the translations through Google image searches, translation websites, Wikipedia, and her artist Facebook page. Although she has altered the linguistic "face" of the bottle to create imaginary products – much like she has altered her own appearance in earlier works – the global identity of the brand remains visually consistent, utterly recognizable, and culturally universal.

Tomoko Sawada (b. 1977, Kobe, Japan) graduated from Seian University of Art and Design, Ohtsu, Japan with degrees in media design (1998) and photography (2000). She is the recipient of the Canon New Cosmos of Photography Grand Prize, the 2004 ICP Infinity Award, and the Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award. Sawada's photographs have been exhibited worldwide since 1997 and can be found in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Monographs of her work include: ID400 (2004), OMIAI (2005), School Days (2006), Masquerade (2006), THIS IS WHO I AM (2011), and Sign (2013).

Since 1999, Ken Kitano has explored the idea of global identity in his photographic project, our face. His unique, meticulously produced, large-scale gelatin silver prints appear at first glance as portraits of individuals, but are in actuality composite representations of members of a specific social group or demographic in Asia. Like August Sander's visual index of the German population, People of the 20th Century (c. 1910-1956), the 133 images of our face are typological in their approach to classification. Kitano eliminates any reference to social hierarchies, however, by merging the subjects' identities into a unified, archetypal figure. The resulting group portraits are simultaneously singular and plural, as the title of the series suggests. Kitano writes:


I travel the world, meeting people from all walks of life. The photographs I take of them are then combined on one print. The portraits created through this process are icons of collectives, accumulations of the unique entities of many individuals ... Our world has no center. This project attempts to re-imagine the world as a collection of selves and an assemblage of localities.


The photographs on view have been selected by Kitano as visual embodiments of "prayers." Whether exploring prayer as a daily ritual or as a gesture that extends beyond the realm of religion, these works are, in Kitano's words, "the portraits of our prayers of today."

Ken Kitano (b. 1968, Tokyo, Japan) graduated from Nihon University's College of Industrial Technology in 1991 and began his career as a freelance photographer in 1993. He received the Newcomer's Award from the Photographic Society of Japan in 2007, was the Artist in Resident at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing from May to August 2010, and was most recently awarded a fellowship by the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs to study in the United States (2013-2014). His work has been internationally exhibited and is collected by institutions such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, among others. Publications by Kitano include: our face (2005), FLOW AND FUSION (2009), Ken Kitano: our face (2010), and our face: Asia (2013).

For more information about Tomoko Sawada and Ken Kitano, please contact Margaret Kelly at 212.759.7999 or For general inquiries, please email

One of the world's leading photography galleries, Pace/MacGill has been dedicated to advancing fine art photography for 30 years. Known for discovering artists, representing masters, and placing important collections and archives into major public institutions, Pace/MacGill has presented some 200 exhibitions and published numerous catalogues on modern and contemporary photography. Founded in 1983 by Peter MacGill, in collaboration with Arne Glimcher of Pace Gallery and Richard Solomon of Pace Editions, Pace/MacGill is located at 32 East 57th Street in New York City.

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