Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs

On view in the Raymond Jonson Gallery
April 27 – July 28, 2018
Opening Events, Friday, April 27 & Saturday, April 28

Curated by Mary Statzer, Curator of Prints and Photographs UNM Art Museum

University of New Mexico Art Museum proudly presents Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs.  The exhibition features 50 foundational works, some which have rarely been seen, and makes connections to ongoing series created by Nagatani throughout his career. The photographs in the exhibition predate Nagatani’s move to New Mexico where he was Professor of photography in the Department of Art and Art History at UNM (1987-2007) and the work for which he became known, including the large-scale Polaroids made in collaboration with Andrée Tracey (1983-89) and Nuclear Enchantment (1988-93).

Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs will open with a weekend of special events on April 27 and 28.  A reception will be held at the Museum on Friday, April 27 from 4:00 to 6:30 PM and will be followed by the New Mexico premiere of Living in the Story, in Popejoy Hall, a new documentary film about Nagatani’s work told in his own words.  Director Lynn Estomin, cinematographer Miguel Gandert, and Andrew Smith, who initiated the project, will be present for an audience Q & A.  A panel of former colleagues and students will convene on Saturday, April 28 at 1:30 PM in Northrup Lecture Hall to discuss Nagatani’s enduring influence as an artist and photographic educator.

Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs tracks Nagatani’s development from when he first began creating photographs through and beyond graduate school where he studied with renowned photographer and educator, Robert Heinecken, at UCLA.  Already an accomplished technical draftsman and high school teacher at the time, Nagatani was a novice photographer, describing himself as a “sponge” who enthusiastically explored photographic techniques and practices, as well as contemporary art.  His growth and expansive interests are evident in the six major bodies of Nagatani’s work that will be on display. The earliest are black and white photographs (1975-76) in which the artist captures ephemeral moments on the streets of Los Angeles or models acting out scenes in enigmatic urban spaces. The series Chroma Room (1977), which was inspired by Nagatani’s interest in theater at the time, represents his first serious attempt to utilize the directorial mode to create a cohesive body of work. In Kosmopolites (1978-80), Nagatani photographed women in a simple studio wearing clothing and masks of their own choosing. Coming close to traditional portraits, they nevertheless present a constructed persona and sense of theater. In 1980, he was hired to photograph an upscale bar mitzvah in Beverly Hills where the rock band Devo entertained the crowd. The results, A Party, Beverly Hills, U.S.A., is a humorous collective portrait of Southern California wealth and fashion in the early-1980s. Nagatani began his long-running series Chromatherapy in 1978. The photographs on display from this period depict imaginative scenes of people receiving colored light therapy, demonstrating the artist’s combined fascination with tableau, color photography, and metaphysical healing. Celestial Earthscapes (1979-80) were Nagatani’s reaction and homage to photographs generated by spacecraft like Mariner. While the set-ups for these photographs appear simple, they address Nagatani’s interest in the occult and spirituality as well as the existential implications of science explaining the ineffable. The series Colorful Cathedrals (1980-83) was a departure for Nagatani. While color was still a major concern, it came in the form of spray paint applied to the surface of collaged black and white photographs. It also marks his early use of Polaroids (SX-70).

The photographs in the exhibition, which come from the permanent collection, were part of a large gift received from Nagatani before he passed away in October 2017.

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Chromatic Chimera – Patrick at Pan Pacific Auditorium, Los Angeles, California from the Chromatherapy series, 1978/2004, Color Ilfoflex 2000 print, edition A.P., 15-7/8 x 19-7/8 inches, Museum purchase, Ray A. Graham III Fund, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.16.8

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Chroma Room (blue), 1977, Chromogenic print (Kodak Ektacolor), 11in X 14in, Gift of the Artist, UNM Art Museum, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.16

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Chroma Room (yellow), 1977, Chromogenic print (Kodak Ektacolor), 11in X 14in, Gift of the Artist, UNM Art Museum, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.18

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Plate VII from the portfolio Celestial Earthscapes, 1979, Cibachrome print mounted to archival board, 24 x 48-3/4 inches, Gift of the artist , © Estate of Patrick Nagatani , 2017.22.38

Mary Statzer, Curator of Prints and Photographs UNM Art Museum
Meeting Patrick Nagatani shortly before he died and working on this exhibition of his early work, has been a definite highlight of my first year at UNM Art Museum.  Nagatani’s extraordinary commitment to the directorial mode and color photography coupled with meaningful subjects has made a lasting contribution to photography and contemporary art.

Arif Khan, Director UNM Art Museum
The UNM Art Museum is honored to celebrate the life and career of Patrick Nagatani through this exhibition of his early photography. Through his photography and teaching, Patrick devoted his life to finding and sharing the deep generosity of the soul. His art revealed the location where creativity, interior life and the life of the spirit are mysteriously woven together.

Patrick Nagatani Biography:
Patrick Nagatani was born August 19, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois to Nisei Japanese-American parents who were imprisoned in the internment camps during World War II. He was an artist who pushed the conventional boundaries of photography towards his own unique expression, a generous and devoted teacher and an indefatigable collaborator.

He earned his M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1980 where he studied with Robert Heinecken. Nagatani had a long interest in studio set-ups and staged photography, from his collaborative Polaroid 20 X 24 work with Andrée Tracy to his Novellas, to the Ryoichi/Nagatani Excavations and Chromatherapy images. Beginning in 1982, he was also a “tapist,” transforming found photographs into iconic images via a palette of masking tape. Nagatani developed his campaigns over many years, refining his ideas and carefully sketching out his pictures before they were ever captured on film.

Patrick Nagatani came to the University of New Mexico in 1987 and joined the Department of Art and Art History where he taught in the internationally recognized photography program until he retired in 2007. He received many honors and awards including Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 and 1992, and a Photographer’s Fellowship from the Aaron Siskind Foundation in 1997.  That same year, he was named a UNM Regents’ Professor and in 2003 he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In addition, Nagatani received the Honored Educator Award from the Society for Photographic Education in 2008. He was an active member of the Atomic Photographers Guild.  His work has been exhibited, published, and collected internationally.

His photographic oeuvre includes topics from the nuclear age, archaeology, Buddhism, identity, history, literature, and aviation. In 2010, a thirty-year retrospective exhibition and monograph—Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani 1978-2008—premiered at the University of New Mexico Art Museum and traveled to the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston, West Virginia as well as the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California. Two earlier monographs include Patrick Nagatani/Andrée Tracey Polaroid 20 x 24 Photographs 1983-1986, (Tokyo: Gallery Min, 1987), and Nuclear Enchantment, (Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1991) which received the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award. His last creative endeavor, a novel titled, The Race: Tales in Flight, was published in October 2017 by the Albuquerque Museum and Fresco Books.

This exhibition is part of a collaborative effort between the Albuquerque Museum, The New Mexico Museum of Art and the University of New Mexico Art Museum to honor and celebrate the artistic contributions of Patrick Nagatani to the state of New Mexico.

Albuquerque Museum
Excavations | June 23 – September 23, 2018

New Mexico Museum of Art
Patrick Nagatani: Invented Realities | May 26 – September 9, 2018

UNM Art Museum
Patrick Nagatani: A Survey of Early Photographs | April 27 – July 28, 2018


Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Magician, Los Angeles, 1976, Gelatin silver print, 12-3/8 x 10 inches, Gift of the artist, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.4

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), No. 8 from A Party, Beverly Hills, U.S.A., 1980, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches, Gift of the artist, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.49

Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Lorna Carlin, Hollywood, California, February 18, 1945 from the Kosmopolites series, 1978, Kodak Ektacolor print, 14 x 11 inches, Gift of the artist, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.27

Main Image:
Patrick Nagatani (American, 1945 – 2017), Patrick, Johnie, Dave, On The Road, 1976, Gelatin silver print, 10in X 13in, Gift of the Artist, UNM Art Museum, © Estate of Patrick Nagatani, 2017.22.7