IU professor’s art on display at Met

One of the images in Nakagawa’s “Banta” series.

Two photographs by Osamu James Nakagawa, associate professor with IU’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts — part of IU’s College of Arts and Sciences — will be on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Part of Nakagawa’s “Banta” series, the photos will be on display through May 2013 as part of the Met’s “After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age” show. The installation features about 25 works drawn from the museum’s collection, exploring various ways artists have used digital technology to alter photographic images from the late 1980s to the present.

“I’m very honored my photographs were selected for this exhibition,” Nakagawa told Art at IU via email. “I’ve been creating my artwork using Photoshop since I was a graduate student in 1990-93. At that time not many people were using computers to create photography, and I was fortunate enough to study under pioneer digital artists Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom at the University of Houston.

“It has been almost 20 years since I started to work with Photoshop, and I think we are in a very interesting and exciting time for photography in that we are preserving traditional practices while also embracing the potential of the these now-established ‘new technologies.’”

Nakagawa said his series is inspired by a visit to his wife’s birthplace, Okinawa, where he saw the “banta” cliffs that drop hundreds of feet to the ocean below. His reshaping of the images, he said, turned them into a metaphor for Okinawa’s history and its political and cultural position between Japan and the United States, as well as a hyper-real vision of his experience “standing between fear and beauty.”

“Banta” was first exhibited at New York City’s Sepia International gallery in 2008. The Met; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City have acquired prints from the series for their permanent collections. The exhibition traveled to the Sakima Art Museum in Okinawa, the Nikon Salon in Tokyo and the 1839 Contemporary Gallery in Taipei, Taiwan, and was also featured in the 2011 Ballarat International Foto Biennale in Australia.

With a solo show that opened in France in July, Nakagawa is also a nominee for a 2012 Discovery Award through summer photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles. The festival’s website says the award “goes to a photographer or artist making use of photography whose work has recently been discovered or deserves to be.”

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