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Kei Ito

Georgia Museum of Art

Did you know that some photographs don’t use a camera at all? In fact, the very first photographs in history, taken in 1827, didn’t use one. Instead, they placed objects on chemically treated paper, then exposed the results to light. Contemporary artist Kei Ito is doing the same thing two hundred years later, and you can see his work on view at the museum through July 14.

Ito’s exhibition is titled “Staring at the Face of the Sun” and uses those cameraless techniques to address the trauma of nuclear disaster and testing. His grandfather, who survived the American bombing of Hiroshima and became an anti-nuclear activist, compared the detonation of the atom bomb to hundreds of suns lighting up the sky. Ito uses the power of the sun to create works that make us think about what is visible and what (like sunlight and radiation) is invisible.

For example, his “Sungazing Scroll” is a 118-foot-long photogram for which Ito exposed segments of photographic paper to sunlight 108 times, with each exposure lasting the length of a single breath. The number 108 holds profound cultural meaning in Japanese Buddhism. To mark the Japanese New Year, bells toll 108 times, symbolizing the purifying of the soul.

Funding for the exhibition is made possible by the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, with additional support from the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art and Sara and John Shlesinger.

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