Osamu James Nakagawa
Part #2: Eclipse
Twenty-seven years ago, my career as a photographer was launched by a series of images of billboards, TV monitors, and drive-in theaters ("Drive-in Theater" and "Billboard" series, 1992-1997).
At once visually seductive and iconic, I saw these sites as mere façades or projections that conveniently concealed or obfuscated larger national issues of religion, immigration, racial and economic inequality, and unrest. I also came to realize that these interfaces allowed Hollywood and corporations to espouse fabricated mythologies or histories of the American Dream through films and ad campaigns.
With the recent promise to ‘Make America Great Again,’ we're no longer recollecting the past but reliving it, which compelled me to revisit my old negatives of drive-in theaters and start photographing more recent abandoned theaters in the Midwest.
The early "Drive-in Theater" and "Billboard" series brought the past to the present by digitally filling the theater screens with images I took of KKK demonstrations, the southern border, migrant workers, etc. By changing the context of familiar imagery to Americans, the viewer becomes an observer and is asked to question the ideology of the American Dream.
In the new "Eclipse" series, the screens have gone blank, appearing as dark predictions. They stand as uncertain monuments in a disorienting landscape that is at once familiar yet unrecognizable. Muddling night and day, positive and negative, present and future, the darkness of the land quietly unveils our memories and questions what we remember and forget as a nation.
Osamu James Nakagawa was born in New York City in 1962 and raised in Tokyo. He returned to the United States, moving to Houston, Texas, at age 15. He received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Houston in 1993. Currently, Mr. Nakagawa is a Ruth N. Halls Distinguished Professor of Photography at Indiana University. Nakagawa’s work is included in numerous collections and he is a recipient of the 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 Higashikawa New Photographer of the Year, and the 2015 Sagamihara Photographer of the Year in Japan. Nakagawa’s work has been exhibited internationally, including 2022 Triennale Der Photographie Hamburg, Currency, Deichtorhallen; From the Cave, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum; 2019 Kyotographie, Eclipse＋ Kai: Osamu James Nakagawa, Gallery Sugata; Photography to End All Photography, Brandts Museum, Denmark; OKINAWA TRILOGY: Osamu James Nakagawa, Kyoto University of Art and Design; War/Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and others. Nakagawa’s monograph GAMA Caves is available from Akaaka Art Publisher in Tokyo, Japan.