Yasumasa Morimura, Brothers (A Late Autumn Prayer), 1991. Two silver dye bleach prints (Cibachrome) mounted on panel with gold leafed artist’s frame, 103 3/4 × 102 inches (263.5 × 259.1 cm). Gift of Sandra and Gerald Fineberg. © Yasumasa Morimura
Yasumasa Morimura uses imaging and photographic technology to investigate the genre of history painting in contemporary art. By also inserting himself into all of his images, Morimura creates an extended meditation on the complicated nature of narrative, portraiture, and mythology, showing how the contemporary individual is always rooted in historical precedent. Brothers (A Late Autumn Prayer) is inspired by French artist Jean-François Millet’s The Angelus (1857–59), in which two laboring peasants pray with bowed heads in a field. In lieu of the setting sun in Millet’s painting, Morimura has placed within his photograph the iconic image of a mushroom cloud, the atmospheric impact of a post-nuclear explosion. Other changes Morimura has made to Millet’s tableaux include farm tools exchanged for handguns and rifles, and himself posing as a peasant warrior rather than a tenant laborer. A powerfully visual comment on the devastation of war and nuclear disaster on the relationships between peoples and with the natural environment, Morimura’s photograph questions idyllic representations of history in the wake of historical violence.