A Prime #14
Rika Noguchi b. 1971, Tokyo
A Prime #14
26 x 37 1/4 inches (66.0 x 94.6 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Gift, The Bohen Foundation, 2003
Rika Noguchi has photographed varied locations, from New York, Miami, and Amsterdam to Mount Fuji and elsewhere in her native Japan, primarily creating a series of seascapes, verdant or industrial landscapes, as well as views of construction and urban sites. With their straightforward formal structure and seemingly ordinary subject matter, her pictures are deceptively simple. When considered as a whole, Noguchi's oeuvre is a sustained consideration of the intersection of the man-made and the natural. Her series Dreaming of Babylon (1998–2000) is part of that meditation and also of her larger narrative concerning human existence in the physical world. Some of the images include a human figure, as in the lone individual walking down a dusty road in Dreaming of Babylon 12. Even when the views are devoid of people, a human presence is suggested through its absence or through traces of the man-made, such as the small structure nestled amid the trees in Dreaming of Babylon 15.
The atmospheric light in Noguchi's images is reminiscent of the illumination in nineteenth-century-landscape paintings, many of which are imbued with spiritual connotations. Her work particularly recalls that of early-nineteenth-century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, who often portrayed a single figure against the ocean or a vista from a high cliff to suggest a force greater than mere humanity. In Noguchi’s work such associations are most fully articulated in her series A Prime (1998–99), which comprises sunrise views taken from Mount Fuji, a sacred symbol of Japanese national identity. Her meticulously composed images are not digitally manipulated, like so much work of her contemporaries. Rather, she searches for what she calls “a moment of truth” that conveys universal resonance.