Doug & Mike Starn are identical twins whose partnership achieved global renown beginning in the 1980s with their participation in the 1987 Whitney Biennial and representation by famed gallerist Leo Castelli in 1989. The Starns have since the origins of their art practice been highly intellectual, curious artists who deploy their vision across multiple disciplines, including photography, sculpture and architecture in unique ways. Light has been an important center of their art, particularly in their "Absorption of Light" works that include the series Black Pulse, Attracted to Light, Structure of Thought and Tosodaiji. From their artists' notes, "In almost any culture in the history of the world, light is used as a metaphor for thought, knowledge, intelligence". Their exploration of these themes ranges from silhouetted trees that "symbolized the layers and layers of sensory input, memories, emotion, imagination and ideas" (again from the artists' notes) to moths that the essayist Demetrio Paparoni describes in Doug & Mike Starn's "Attracted to Light" as "The pull of gravity that light has over the corporeal body of the moths is like breathing, like thinking, impossible to deny; involuntarily, moth's wings bring them to the light." to the images of Buddhist monks including the work Ganjin.
While seeking enlightenment, the two artists became fascinated by the East and Buddhism. Ganjin was a leading Buddhist scholar Chinese monk that the Japanese Buddhists invited to their country to enrich their teachings. Known for his Buddhist knowledge, gentle spirit and resolute willpower, Ganjin attempted, through great personal hardship, to reach Japan, but was repeatedly turned back by storms, pirates and other obstacles. In one three year attempt, he ultimately became blind from an infection. None of these sufferings deterred the monk, and on his sixth attempt he reached Japan, was received by the Emperor, and established a school that helped grow Buddhism in that country. Ganjin is a venerated figure for the Starns, as even blind, he embodies enlightenment, and despite tremendous obstacles, resolutely pursued higher knowledge and sharing that enlightenment with a broader community.
The ancient statue captured in this work can be read as representing the eternal nature of true knowledge, with the multiple papers reflecting that insights can be assembled for a broader vision, and the element of time, both in the pursuit of knowledge and the eternal nature of that knowledge, being incorporated into the work by printing the image on Thai Mulberry paper treated to look old. Ganjin is a highly spiritual, intellectually rich work from these two highly acclaimed artists.
Doug and Mike Starn's art has been the object of numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide. The Starns have received many honors including two National Endowment for the Arts Grants in 1987 and 1995; The International Center for Photography's Infinity Award for Fine Art Photography in 1992; and, artists in residency at NASA in the mid-nineties. They have received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Dagens Nyheter, Corriere della Sera, Le Figaro, The Times (London), Art in America and Artforum, amongst many other notable media. Major artworks by the Starns are represented in public and private collections including: The Museum of Modern Art (NYC); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (NYC); The Jewish Museum (NYC); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); Moderna Museet (Stockholm); The National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne); Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC); Yokohama Museum of Art (Japan); La Biblioteque Nationale (Paris); La Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (Paris); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, amongst many others. Doug and Mike Starn are identical twins born in 1961 and trained as photographers at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Gravity of Light (Skira Rizzoli, 2012)
To Find God not the Devil's Insides (The Print Center / The Starn Studio, 2007)
alleverythingthatisyou (Baldwin Gallery, 2006)
Attracted to Light (Blind Spot / powerhouse, 2003)
Mike and Doug Starn (Abrams, 1990)