Secret Garden

Broad Street Review - August 19, 2008
by Robert Zaller

Flowers as sculpture in motion

Yumiko Izu, wife of the well-known photographer of Angkor Wat, Kenro Izu, is a rapidly emerging artist in her own right, as a small but exquisite show at Galerie BMG in Woodstock, N.Y., makes clear. Ms. Izu specializes in photographing flowers, a well-worn subject that yields fresh and striking results in her hands. Her photographs are taken in black and white, with a mounted, oversize 8 x 10 camera, and exposures of up to a minute. She uses the older platinum-palladium process, and prints on fine, textured paper, enabling her to achieve extraordinary textural effects.

The present show consists of two suites, the first and earlier in black and white, and the second printed entirely in shades of white. The former, with its stark contrast and its subtle gradations of gray, is the more immediately appealing. Some of the images are boldly sensual; others suggest a mysterious, nocturnal state of being, tinged with decay.

Flowers flourish differently than anything else in nature; they die differently as well. Ms. Izu, in these images, runs a gamut between both extremes, reminding us as well of the human relationship to the floral world, for we make flowers the companion of our most intimate hours, and of our deepest joys and sorrows. They personify us, and we them; and yet they are full of strangeness, and when seen with a poet's eye such as Ms. Izu's, they can genuinely startle us. D. H. Lawrence understood flowers this way, and I think he would have enjoyed this exhibition.

It is Ms. Izu's white-on-white images, however, that made the finally more distinctive impression for me. Using roses and sweetpea, she achieves an extraordinary sense of scalloping; her petals, seemingly urged by an invisible wind, suggest sculpture in motion. One thinks of the flutings of ancient Greek statuary, but whereas the Greeks sought to mimic nature, Ms. Izu derives the most delicate of artifacts from actual leaves.

It's yet another way she negotiates the subtle bridge between the flower world and our own, and suggests the myriad subtle ways in which they reflect and comment on each other.

Woodstock Times - August 14, 2008
by Paul Smart

Smart Art - The flower as metaphor

Yumiko Izu's flower images in her show Secret Garden at Galerie BMG this month are not only exquisite in their sense of tactile delicacy, but also quite astounding in their sense of "How'd-she-do-that" mastery of the rare craft of platinum palladium processing.

Platinum, unlike more modern forms of photo processing (and all of the newer digital formats), involves a careful, time-consuming painting process utilizing chemicals over paper. Fine in its standard uses, capturing rich blacks and deepening shades of grey; but something completely different when working in the white-on-white spectrum that characterizes about half of these new works.

Gallery owner Bernard Gerson smiles when we pause before those works, and relates how he'd wondered how they were created as well. "Drastic overexposure," he said of these central images in Secret Garden, as key an exploration of the ephemeral beauty of flowers, depicting them in various stages of their life cycle, as any book I've read on the matter, as lyrical as any poem.

"Everything in this world has its end and nothing remains unchanged," Izu, of Rhinebeck, writes of her work. "Flowers, petals, stems, pollens and ruins, they vanish out of the darkness slowly with a hint of sorrow, as if anticipating their fate. The flower's life is a metaphor that reflects on the fleetingness of human life."

Originally from Osaka, Japan, Yumiko Izu received her diploma of photography from Visual Art School in Japan. After coming to the United States, she received her Bachelor of Arts from Brooks Institute of Photography in California. In 1998 she moved to New York City and started working on various assignments in advertising and editorial photography. In 2003 she began her personal fine art photography work using the platinum/palladium printing process. Yumiko currently lives in Rhinebeck and works out of her studio in Red Hook.

The current exhibition, augmented by some great new work upstairs by new area resident Dan Burkholder and Gerson's ever-tasteful collection of classic photography's contemporary best, will be on display though September 8.