The exhibition Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising: Four Artists from Hiroshima features contemporary Japanese artists Megumi Fukuda, Taro Furukata, Genki Isayama, and Kana Kou. Together, they explore the profound cultural, political, and social impacts of the United States’ World War II bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The social and political ramifications of the bombings have permeated nearly every sector of Japanese society, particularly the Seto Inland Sea region, which is dealing with ongoing fallout from nuclear energy policies and environmental degradation. The artists in Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising use social activism, historical research, performance, site-specific installation, drawing, painting, and video to address politics and resilience in the region.
In Megumi Fukuda’s installation Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising and Ends with the Sun Setting (2013–14), solar panels activate and illuminate discarded chairs, lamps, and television sets. Taro Furukata’s installation The Mother and the Little Boy (2018) consists of a collection of items arranged on tables, including a photograph of Paul Tibbets, a vinyl disc of the song “Enola Gay” (by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), and fabric dyed by hand using food-based pigments and silkscreened with stars. The artwork alludes to the Enola Gay plane and its cargo—the atomic bomb, named Little Boy, that it dropped on Hiroshima. Genki Isayama’s artworks explore natural and dynamic processes such as decay and chemical reactions. Shot and presented in real time, Isayama’s single-channel video screen (2017) and the multi-channel video Objects (2017) portray porcelain objects disintegrating in an operatic arc of creation and destruction. Kana Kou’s richly detailed and massive multi-panel landscape drawings and installations frequently depict the Seto Inland Sea. Kou’s lush renderings of abundant vegetation reflect her close observations of the region and her intense engagement with the landscape.
All of the artists are alumni of Hiroshima City University (HCU), and Furukata is also professors there. They were selected for the exhibition through an in-depth review process conducted by the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College in collaboration with HCU. Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising marks the first time artists from HCU have exhibited in the United States. Fukuda, Furukata, and Isayama will join Pomona College as artists-in-residence, which will include artist talks, workshops with students, and performances.
The exhibition is part of Birds, Bombs, and Beauty: An Interdisciplinary Study of Nature, Politics, and Culture Linking the Seto Inland Sea Region of Japan with Southern California, a years-long collaboration between Pomona College and HCU that focuses on climate justice, politics, and the visual arts and emphasizes scholarly engagement between students, faculty, and staff from Pomona and HCU. Birds, Bombs, and Beauty began as a research undertaking that included a seminar course led by Kyoko Kurita (Japanese Literature) and a trip to Japan (unfortunately suspended due to the pandemic shutdown in March 2020). The Pomona research team also includes Phillip Choi (Physics), Nina Karnovsky (Biology), Tom Le (International Relations / Politics), and Rebecca McGrew (Art History, the Benton). This research was supported by EnviroLab Asia and the Henry Luce Foundation.
The exhibition title Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising is drawn from the name of Fukuda’s installation, and it evokes the mundane yet awe-inspiring act of the sun rising. The title links the work of the four artists with a daily occurrence that unites people across space and time during a period of ongoing global political conflict, humanitarian catastrophes, and the climate emergency.