2022 / Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College presents the first US exhibition for four Japanese contemporary artists from Hiroshima, Feb. 12 – June 25

Kana Kou (1975-2020), Beautiful Limit (detail), 2010. Crayon and pencil on paper, 40 panels, 24 x 36 in. each. Courtesy of Hiroshi Tachiwana. Photo: Hiroshi Noguchi

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College presents Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising: Four Artists from Hiroshima, the first US exhibition for four Japanese contemporary artists: Megumi Fukuda, Taro Furukata, Genki Isayama, and Kana Kou from February 12 through June 25, 2022.

These artists present work that explores the ongoing environmental, cultural, and social impact of the United States’s fatal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, particularly in light of Japan’s postwar industrialization and investment in nuclear power.

Hailing from Hiroshima and its neighboring Seto Inland Sea region, the artists use multiple approaches and media—drawing, painting, site-specific installation, video, social activism, and historical research—as tools to address politics and resilience in the region.

The exhibition is the result of a unique partnership between Hiroshima City University and Pomona College.

Fukuda, Furukata, and Isamaya joined Pomona College as artists-in-residence in early February, offering talks, workshops with students, and performances.

This exhibition grew out of a multi-year collaboration between Pomona College and Hiroshima City University (HCU). The program, Birds, Bombs, and Beauty: An Interdisciplinary Study of Nature, Politics, and Culture Linking the Seto Inland Sea Region of Japan with Southern California focused on climate justice, politics, and the visual arts with scholarly engagement between students, faculty, and staff from Pomona and HCU. All the artists are alumni of HCU, and Furukata is also a professor there.

“Two years ago, an interdisciplinary contingent of faculty members, students, and curator Rebecca McGrew from the Benton were preparing to travel to Japan to visit the Seto Inland Sea region,” said Kyoko Kurita, professor of Japanese literature at Pomona College. “We were all interested in exploring the relationship among nature, industrialization, and art in this incredibly rich area. Though we ultimately had to cancel our trip because of the pandemic, we were able to move ahead with this exhibition. Over 5.5 million people have now died of COVID-19 so far. Human lives are so fragile, and yet works of art remind us that each day deserves our attention.”

Through careful engagements with Japan’s history and landscapes, the four artists in the exhibition examine their nation’s tenuous post-WWII relationships with nuclear power and industrialization. Contemplating temporal ideas of decay, preservation, and im/permanence, their works anchor the fraught present era of climate crisis within an embattled past.

Charles Worthen, a professor in the Faculty of Arts at HCU, notes that “We may regard the made things of Megumi Fukuda, Taro Furukata, Genki Isayama, and Kana Kou in the context of one of the most tragically ‘unmade’ places in history, but the legacy of Hiroshima is only one filter through which to see their work. Their drawings, videos, and installations go beyond this history to reveal the equanimity of worlds coming together and disappearing. That they will be seen in the new Benton Museum of Art across the sea is cause for celebration.”

The exhibition title, Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising, is drawn from the name of Fukuda’s installation, and it links the work offered here with the mundane yet awe-inspiring occurrence that unites people during a period of ongoing global political conflict, humanitarian catastrophes, and climate emergency.