Critics’ Picks

Laurel Nakadate, The Kingdom #10, 2018, ink-jet print, 3 x 5". From the series “The Kingdom,” 2018.

New York

Laurel Nakadate

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects
535 West 22nd Street Sixth Floor
January 18 - March 17

There is a different Laurel Nakadate on view in this exhibition. The woman here—no longer a catalyst in extreme social experiments, as she was in a number of well-known earlier projects—is a mother who reflects on her own family and personal history.

In “The Kingdom” (all works cited, 2018), the series that gives the show its title, thirty-four digital photomontages depict Nakadate’s infant son inserted into vintage photographs of the artist’s mother, who died shortly after his birth. The little boy, traversing space and time, appears in a variety of scenarios: resting peacefully in his grandmother’s lap when she was a young bride, all in white for her wedding day (The Kingdom #2); or clutched to her chest in a picnic picture and flanked by her sun-kissed friends, her leonine face framed by a gorgeous mass of wavy hair (The Kingdom #10). Nakadate played a marginal role in the execution of these pictures—she hired anonymous digital artists to create them, with only one guideline: to make it look like her mother is always holding her grandchild.

Executive Order 9066 features more photos of Nakadate’s happy and carefree son, but it is a deceptively buoyant piece: The 180 images in this work correspond to the days of her father’s detainment in a Hunt, Idaho, internment camp for Japanese American citizens. Many of these camps were erected after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II—just one example of vicious US xenophobia. Though the artist’s narratives unveil the tragedies within multiple generations of her family, they are nonetheless girded by the hope of new beginnings.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.