Kei Ito: Each Tolling Sun
Jul 28, 2023 — Feb 24, 2024
This body of work started on August 6, 1945, at 8:15 am, when Ito’s grandfather witnessed a great tragedy that destroyed nearly everything in Hiroshima. He survived the bombing, yet he lost many of his family members from the explosion and radiation poisoning. As an activist and author, his grandfather fought against the use of nuclear weapons throughout his life, until he too passed away from cancer when Ito was ten years old. Ito remembers his grandfather saying that, “day in Hiroshima was like hundreds of suns lighting up the sky.”
Ito harnesses the symbolism of the sun by tying it to Japanese New Year celebrations. Traditionally, bells toll 108 times to mark the New Year as a way of driving out evil passions and desires while purifying the soul. The artist recreates this in Each Tolling Sun by pounding a steel disc with a hammer 108 times and then creating a contact print of the deformed disc after each strike. The exhibition space is dominated by a large grid of these prints and a video of Ito striking the disc.
For Ito, the sun is a representation of the great destruction, not only associated with the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also possible future destruction caused by nuclear weapons or other apocalyptic forces.Kei Ito is a visual artist working primarily with camera-less photography and installation art. Currently teaching at the International Center for Photography in New York City, Ito earned his BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art.
Ito’s work addresses issues of intergenerational loss and interconnectedness expressed using the materiality of photography, as well as experimental processes. Fundamentally rooted in the trauma and legacy passed down from his late grandfather, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Ito’s work explores the complexities of his identity and heritage by examining the past and present using visualizations of radiation. Specifically, each of Ito’s projects is tied to a specific history or idea that provides audiences a chance to explore notions of justice and power.
Some of Ito’s most noteworthy accomplishments include residencies at the Studio at MASS MoCA, the Dennis Roussel Fellowship at the Center for Fine Art Photography, and the Center for Photography at Woodstock. His bibliography includes reviews and articles published by the Washington Post, Hyperallergic, ArtMaze Magazine, and others. Additionally, His works reside in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Norton Museum of Art, Chroma at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Eskenazi Museum of Art.