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The Ryoichi/Nagatani Excavations: PATRICK NAGATANI

March 13, 2009 - September 25, 2009


Photographer Patrick Nagatani explores the thin line between reality and illusion, and examines photography’s role in both documenting and creating “history.”  He confronts the viewer with the question: do we believe what we see?

In this series, Nagatani follows the excavations of the fictitious Japanese archaeologist Ryoichi.  Nagatani tells us that in 1985, Ryoichi received a mysterious set of maps that led him to excavate numerous historic and contemporary sites around the world noted for their cultural significance. For fifteen years Ryoichi and his team secretly excavated Stonehenge, Chaco Canyon, Ayers Rock, Kitt Peak National Observatory, the very Large Array radio-telescope, and other sites.  Ryoichi proceeds to unearth evidence of a worldwide “automobile culture” that appeared to parallel our own.  After unearthing the artifacts, Ryoichi’s team covered up all evidence of their digs, but not before Nagatani had photographed each site, providing the only existing record of Ryoichi’s discoveries.

Born in Chicago, Nagatani was raised and educated in Los Angeles where he achieved artistic recognition for his highly original images of a benumbed consumer society living on the brink of disaster. In 1987 he moved to Albuquerque to teach at the University of New Mexico. Over the last decade he has imaginatively explored the effects of the nuclear industry on New Mexico, and Japanese-American internment camps from World War II.

All works in this exhibition are part of Lehigh University’s Permanent Collection of over 9,000 art objects.   The Nagatani photographs are gifts of Dr. LeGrand P. Belnap, and Peter and Barbara Noris.

This exhibition is a project of Art 275 students Skye Lehman and Juliette Gonzalez.



March 13, 2009
September 25, 2009
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