The extraordinary 30-year career of Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) is celebrated in this retrospective of more than 100 luminous photographs, made from 1976 to the present. This presentation, in an installation designed by Sugimoto, constitutes the first major survey of Sugimoto’s oeuvre.
One of Japan’s most important contemporary artists, Sugimoto is known for his ongoing multiple series of hauntingly beautiful black-and-white photographs exploring the themes of time, memory, dreams, and natural histories. Working with a large-format camera, he produces glowing images, ranging from the richly detailed to the starkly minimal, which are often suffused with expanses of light and space.
The exhibition includes examples from the series that Sugimoto began in the mid-1970s, Dioramas and Movie Theaters, as well as images from Seascapes and Portraits, started in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. The eight photographs in Portraits were taken in Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London, and Sugimoto painstakingly “remade” them to look like the original paintings from which they were modeled, employing lighting techniques similar to those that the painters might have used. The show also presents Sea of Buddha, 1995; Sugimoto’s more recent Architecture series; and images from Conceptual Forms, a series on which he is currently working.
Primarily using black-and-white film, Sugimoto has created images of exceptional formal beauty and surface quality that stimulate both intellect and vision, and that are sometimes imbued with an unsettling ambiguity. These signal images often capture what is elusive to sight—the horizon line between the sky and sea, the sum total of light projected during a feature-length film, or the physical contours of the principle represented by a mathematical equation.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.
The San Francisco presentation is supported by Jim and Dana Tananbaum, the Brown Foundation, Inc., Maurice W. Gregg, Marie and George Hecksher, Paul Sack and Shirley Davis, and the Ross Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums.