Japanese American National Museum

About the Exhibition

Created by the University of New Mexico’s University Art Museum, the Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani exhibition was conceived as the first comprehensive look at the many and varied projects the artist has worked on since 1978.

The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see both the extensive range of Nagatani’s directorial approach and the breadth of his color photography as he addresses issues surrounding the human condition; politics and the fragile, ever-changing environment; concerns about identity and self; and the invention and interpretation of history.


Enhance your experience of the exhibition with the FREE audio cell phone tour (no cost except your cell phone minutes). Hear information and commentary by the artist. Hang up and call back as often as you’d like before, during, and after your visit. Accessible through January 15, 2012.

It’s easy to use:

  1. Dial 213.455.2924
  2. Follow the prompts
  3. Look for the cell phone logo on labels or use the prompt numbers below
  4. Enter the prompt number followed by the # sign to access information

Prompt 200: Introduction

Prompt 201: Ryoichi/Nagatani Excavations 1985–2001
This project addresses identity and authorship—the artist and that of his alter ego, Ryoichi—history and what constitutes history, the science of archeology, and how photography is complicit in validating this information.

Prompt 202: Japanese American Concentration Camps 1993–1995
This series records the ten main World War II sites. These places hold unique meaning for Nagatani as his parents were confined to separate camps for the duration of the war.

Prompt 203: Nuclear Enchantment 1988–1993
Focuses a sharp lens on the dire consequences of a nuclear conflict not only on the cultural landscape, but all those living—animals and humans alike—upon that landscape.

Prompt 204: Novellas 1992–2004
Employing process and materials that incorporate collage, Polaroid, three-dimensional miniatures, transfer materials, and waterless lithography, the artist worked through a myriad of personal interests and universal ideas.

Prompt 205: Tape-estries 1982–2008
Nagatani has abandoned the camera for a palette of masking tape in various shades and transparencies, X-acto knives, and pencils. His subjects include forest scenes, architecture, fictional characters, Hindu and Buddhist deities, in deliberate postures and corresponding gestures, with stanzas of encrypted messages.

Prompt 206: Nagatani/Tracey Polaroid Collaborations 1983–1989
Works from a collaboration between Nagatani and painter Andrée Tracey. The recurring theme is the threat, chaos, and consequences surrounding a nuclear episode.

Prompt 207: Chromatheraphy 1978–2007
What began as a fictional series of “medical charades” with every detail creafully prescribed and loaded with indirect references to television and film plots and characters, eventually turned autobiographical as the artist encountered his own grave illness.