The Akron Art Museum Presents Nuclear Enchantment: Photographs by Patrick Nagatani
For Release: September 2009
Akron, Ohio, September 11, 2009 – As stories about the threat of nuclear terrorism and building additional nuclear power plants appear on our evening news, Patrick Nagatani’s Nuclear Enchantment seems eerily up to date.
When Nagatani moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1987, he turned his attention to the region’s atomic history and made it the subject of his art into the early 1990s.
The Akron Art Museum will feature around 25 color photographs from the series he produced, entitled Nuclear Enchantment, from October 10, 2009 through February 14, 2010. All the works are recent additions to the Akron Art Museum collection, thanks to the generosity of George Stephanopoulos. After closing in Akron, this exhibition will tour nationally.
New Mexico was the birthplace of the nuclear weapons industry and remains the site of research, manufacturing and refining of active uranium mines and radioactively contaminated land. The birth of the Atomic Age had personal as well as societal significance for Nagatani. A Japanese-American, he was born in Chicago just 13 days after the bombing of Hiroshima; his father’s family lived just outside that city. Nuclear Enchantment questions the faith we have in scientific expertise while recognizing that good—such as radiation therapy and nuclear power—but also much harm resulted from the race to develop nuclear weapons.
“Nagatani’s Nuclear Enchantment series examines how photography influences our ideas about historical truths,” says Dr. Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs at the Akron Art Museum. “And it probes our society’s blind faith in science. Nagatani poses these questions through his images, but leaves it to the viewer to determine the answers.”
Nagatani’s photographs, while based on exhaustive factual research, are fiction. Photographing at atomic test sites, the locations of nuclear accidents and radioactive waste dumps, he changes these everyday places into the landscapes of dreams and sometimes nightmares. Avoiding the use of a computer, Nagatani’s processes instead resemble the special effect techniques of early science fiction films. He stages his scenes in front of the camera, often shooting elaborate combinations of props, posed models and cut-out images in front of actual places. The planes shown in Nuclear Enchantment are mostly model planes from his own collection, which he built from kits. Nagatani’s acidic hues are the result of hand coloring and of altering color balances during printing.
This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by support from Gary and Eileen Leidich, The Mirapaul Foundation and Rick and Alita Rogers.
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