THE EXHAUSTED SKY
OCTOBER 6 – 28, 2017
OPENING RECEPTION – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6, 6-12PM
Evans Contemporary and Star X are pleased to present The Exhausted Sky, a powerful new body of work by Japanese photographer Mamoru Tsukada.
By photographing the sky at three locations related to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - Berlin, Hiroshima, and the Trinity test site in New Mexico, Tsukada speculates on the cause and consequence of power, fear, and the realities of human survival.
Berlin: The city where nuclear fission was first discovered in 1938 – the beginning of power and fear to make the atomic bomb a reality and also the location of the ending of the second world war with the surrender of the totalitarian regimes of Germany and Japan.
Trinity atomic test site, New Mexico: The first such site where the military and economic power of the US culminated in this most powerful technology.
Hiroshima: The city which first experienced the devastation caused by an atomic blast.
When connected, these locations, a huge isosceles triangle is traced across the globe that binds together a trinity of power, fear, and victimization.
Images in Tsukada’s exhibition are a metonym of the human struggle for survival on the ground, and are flooded with a multiplicity of sentiments and scars. The photographs are indicative of victims, and minorities from the past, present, and future, who will be born into this reality – unheard voices, and stories – whose truths and realities remain hidden.
The concepts brought forth in The Exhausted Sky exist virtually, and work heterogeneously. It speculates on the realities of human survival by referring to the conceptual potential of a sky as a sphere of the virtual commons – where light, air, and water equally exist for all nations and regimes, - in forming resistance against manipulation, and victimization to power by fear.
The Exhausted Sky contains two opposing methods of execution with Tsukada paying particular attention to emotion, sense, and intuition while creating each work. Photographing in situ, Tsukada photographs in each of the locations and embraces the physical act of looking at the sky - clouds, light, shadows, feeling the force of the wind, and the humidity in the air. Returning to the studio, under the electric light of the digital interface, the artist superimposes layers of eight different exposures of sky to create a different simulation. Tsukada’s initial photographic layer in each image is an archive photograph of the mushroom cloud expanding in the sky over Hiroshima in 1945. Ultimately invisible, the subtle trace of digital noise in this photograph permeates the final image. More than just visual, this image residue conveys lasting memories of emotion, suffering, and energy, something Tsukada believes indicates the invisibility and longevity of radiation.
In this two-venue exhibition, Tsukada presents The Exhausted Sky in two very different displays at Evans Contemporary, and Star X. Each venue presents the project with unique emotions, concepts, and moods.
Evans Contemporary presents an installation of 112 black and white photographs, installed as a grid, and forming a large, saturated, black and white “wall” of images. Tsukada views this as a sort of memorial to Hiroshima – a mourning for the victims. The installation at Star X consists of 250 colour photographs installed to fill the floor of the gallery. These images simulate the sky in Hiroshima the moment the atomic bomb exploded 600 meters above the city. Victims testified that the sky had become incredibly colourful, and displayed an unexpected beauty, even though almost everything on the ground was destroyed and contaminated by the invisible radiation. The coloured cloud images lay beneath the viewer’s feet, and when walked on, the mark of the footprints on the surface show the existence of the human body. The intent is to reveal that the development of human society exists on the creation of victims.
The Exhausted Sky is the zenith of a fifteen-year output of artistic work for Tsukada and weaves together the thread of concepts that the artist has focused on in his work since 2001. It is the debut solo exhibition in North America for the artist, and the world premier of his Exhausted Sky project.
In Tsukada's Exhausted Sky series, what formed the basis of his past bodies of work, culminates to form a series of photographs that exudes power, dialogue, calm, and contemplation. With this work, Tsukada has contemplated all his experience to date, and calmly and silently pushed through to a higher level. They are strong and silent works that bring forth the concepts seen in his past series of photographs - humanity, compassion and empathy in his early works, and human connection, love and uncertainty as his craft develops. Tsukada's 2007 Cave Paintings series brings forth contemplation, searching, and stillness, and then, as in life, a shift happens in his Love Transformer, series a year later. Chaos, cynicism and questioning of human nature form the base of the Parrhesia and Plato's Light series between 2010 and 2012. Tsukada's oeuvre is a life lived. It is of youth and growing - a human life cycle. All of this can be seen in what he has accomplished with the Exhausted Sky, yet the new work is unabashedly its own - fresh and calm. The latest work has pushed through and settled in a sort of Zen like state - higher, stronger, calmer, and filled with peace. The beauty of Tsukada's work is that it mirrors his life so closely, and that of all humanity on this planet.
Taking early cues from the work of Diane Arbus, Tsukada's photographs embrace the meeting point between dual spheres. The scope of his work has taken him from portraiture to more conceptual practices while touching on Japan's past, and its hold on the present generation. His work sits at the juncture between past and present, dead and living. Tsukada's indubitable embrace of Photoshop and the digital overlay has set the artist at the leading edge of photographic practice. Through this, Tsukada blurs the lines between photographer and painter. His current project, The Exhausted Sky, touch upon the horrifying limits of atomic warfare, and speculate on the reality and possibility of continued human survival on earth.
Born in 1962 in Nagano, Tsukada’s dedication to the theory and practice of photography has been strong since his youth. After working as a freelance photographer for Forbes, Time, Business Week and numerous other international publications, Tsukada began to develop hiscontemporary artistic career in 2000 by creating portraits of the blind. This crucial moment in his development as a photographer; facing blindness in people, and also photography in itself, has been described by Lorand Hegyi, director of the Musée d’art moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole as:
“a Japanese photographer committed to using the medium chosen as a tool to express the deep relationship that binds every man in the world and its invisible structures. His career, not surprisingly, begins with shots dedicated to blind people to resume their experience necessary to build knowledge through the senses, creating an interior image that differs from reality.”(Quote from “Island Never Found”, 2010)
In 2011, Tsukada’s work was greatly affected by the nuclear power accident in Fukushima. He immediately recognized a struggle/dynamic between art and radiation, both being strongly related to invisibility and enduring effect on people for a long period of time. His task then, as an artist, has become to consider what role art plays, as ‘an absurd gift’.
Tsukada studied photography at the International Centre of Photography in New York and History of Art and Theory at Art Studium/Kinki University, Tokyo.
His work has been shown internationally, and include solo, and group exhibitions at Kunstraum Bethanien, (Berlin), Lutherkirche, (Cologne), Z. Sprout, (Tokyo), Musee d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, Palazzo Ducale (Genoa), State Museum of Contemporary Art Thessaloniki (Greece), Emerson Gallery (Berlin), Tomio Koyama Gallery, (Tokyo), Galarie Heike Curtze, (Berlin), LUXE Gallery, (New York), Eye of Gyre, (Tokyo), Poznan Biennale, (Poland), Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo Wonder Site, (Tokyo), Kawasaki City Museum, (Japan) and Gallery Objective Correlative, (Tokyo).
Tsukada’s work has been presented at the Frieze Art Fair, Art Basel, and the Armory Show through Tomio Koyama Gallery and has been artist in residence at Hangar, in Barcelona, Moks, (Estonia), Bangalore Artists Center, (India), and the Banff Centre for the Arts, (Canada).
Evans Contemporary would like to thank Whatley Technical Supplies Inc. for graciously sponsoring the presentation of The Exhausted Sky.
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