MUNICH.- Hiroshi Sugimoto is one of the best-known photographic artists of our time. His celebrated international reputation is based on his photography, although in recent years he has become engaged with other genres: architecture, furniture, objects, and fashion all play an increasingly important role in his work. It is primarily his photography however, that important museums from all over the world have collected and displayed.
Sugimotos unique accomplishments in his genre contradict the mediums conventional tasks to record reality as precisely as possible. In Sugimotos work, one is confronted with the formal reduction of conceptual images, in which he addresses fundamental questions of space and time, past and present, art and science, imagination and reality. I was concerned, noted the artist in 2002, with revealing an ancient stage of human memory through the medium of photography. Whether it is individual memory or the cultural memory of mankind itself, my work is about returning to the past and remembering where we came from and how we came about. His pictures, which leave a lasting impression through their beauty and their auratic effect, interweave Japanese traditions with Western ideas. This East-West dialogue remains characteristic of his work today, which is captivating in its exceptional craftsmanship and strong aesthetic presence, and can exercise an almost magical effect on viewers.
Sugimoto has given this suite of works publicly displayed here for the first time the title Revolution, but he reveals a radically different understanding of the term in the fifteen large-format works. It is not political or social unrest to which Sugimoto alludes, but rather to the original meaning of the term in the sense of a suspension or overturning of previously accepted laws or practices through new insights or methods.
From a technical perspective, the nature of the work is undeniably photographic. But in terms of how they are perceived and understood, these are pictures that would be more readily ascribed to a painterly or conceptual sphere.
This transgression of medium is characteristic of Sugimotos approach, and also applies to Seascapes, the largest distinct corpus of works in his oeuvre. For over thirty years Sugimoto has depicted the sea, always in the same, archetypal way. These works deal with difference within the apparently identical, with morphological visualization, and an iconic vision of a timeless state of consciousness. Dioramas, Theaters, Chambers of Horrors, Portraits, Architecture, Conceptual Forms, etc. are without doubt very important groups of work, but Seascapes composes the broad and consistent foundation upon which all of the artists other series are based.
As an illustration, an example of this genre can be seen at the beginning of the exhibition, whereas at the end of the tour through the six small exhibition rooms there are two landscapes from 1989. In these, the earth, clouds, water and sky are clearly separated from each other although, in one case, the moon is very prominent, bathing the clouds and sea in a pale light.
The origin of the fifteen works entitled Revolution lies in nocturnal seascapes in which only the sea, the sky and the moon are to be seen. A 90° clockwise rotation turns the horizons into vertical lines, dissipating the Romantic image of the night. Without changing the pictures material substance or subject, any obvious connotations are masked, their certainties denied by the transformation. At the same time, highly original abstract configurations emerge in their place. But it is finally the presence of the aesthetic which Sugimoto so forcefully brings to light in his new work. The process derives from conventional puzzles, but reveals in this case no new narrative moments, leading instead to hermetic compositions reminiscent of the work of American painters such as Barnett Newman.
Born and raised in Tokyo , Sugimoto left his home city in 1972 to embark on an art degree in Los Angeles . In 1974 his studies took him to New York , which is where he still lives and works. Sugimoto has not left Japan completely though, and divides his time between New York and Tokyo .