News and More from the Art Alumni Group University of California, Berkeley


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sonya Rapoport: The Nuclear Family in the Atomic Age

The Nuclear Family in the Atomic Age updates the 1977 artwork, "Horizontal Cobalt," that I had created in collaboration with the Nuclear Science Division of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. In that artwork I had translated the Laboratory's experimental output by drawing directly on the computer printouts that described the transmutation of chemical elements when they are bombarded with nuclear substances. Nearby at the associated Livermore Laboratory, the employees and their immediate families were celebrating the once a year Family Day, where visitors walked amidst the H-Bomb mock-ups. In the current artwork, The Nuclear Family in the Atomic Age, I digitally integrated a photograph of each member of my family into a relevant artwork created by Roy Lichtenstein. I then selected a word from the nuclear glossary that related to each collaged image. This ironic juxtaposition has a disturbing effect, purposefully conveying a critical attitude toward nuclear projects. Lichtenstein also created ironic work. His adherence to traditional structure along with his use of images selected from narratives of corporately endorsed domestic, romantic and consumer activities illuminates the irony available in my work. The nuclear era coincides with the era represented in Lichtenstein's work, making for a natural historical overlay. But just as Lichtenstein denaturalized scenes that were meant to represent an everyday life, my work denaturalizes what the corporate and scientific worlds worked to naturalize in nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The photographs of members of my own family incorporated into Lichtenstein artwork exist in a space of detachment and ironic distance, wherein the viewer is able to contemplate the harrowing juxtaposition of family and nuclear bombs.