Michael Light: 100 Suns
January 31 - June 1, 2008
East Gallery

"Brighter than the light of a thousand suns, now I am become death, the destroyer." Robert Oppenheimer, "father" of the atomic bomb, recited these lines from the ancient Hindu text of the Bhagavad-Gita upon seeing the first nuclear detonation in 1945. In the exhibition 100 Suns, San Francisco photographer Michael Light has brought together photographs of atomic explosions carried out by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s over Nevada and in the Pacific Ocean.

All of the images in this exhibition were originally taken by anonymous government photographers, many of whom belonged to the 1352nd Photographic Group of the US Air Force, which was based at the Lookout Mountain Air Force Station in Hollywood, California. By re-photographing and presenting these images in exhibition format, Light sets out to explore the cultural context of the photographs and to examine the nuclear landscape and its profound effect on both our past and our future.

As a landscape photographer, Light explores the traditional subjects of the beautiful, the sublime, and the awe-inspiring force of nature. The man-made nuclear landscape, as he makes clear, surpasses nature in its violence. These images range from stunning, abstract impressions of fire and energy to portrayals of people watching the blasts who seem blithely unaware of the destructive power they are witnessing. It is this dichotomy of beauty and horror, attraction and repulsion, violence and seduction that make this collection of images so compelling.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund, the 1675 Foundation, and the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund.