Hiroshi Sugimoto: Portraits

Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition Hiroshi Sugimoto: Portraits. This new body of work, which will be seen in its entirety at the Guggenheim Museum, New York later this year, significantly enlarges Sugimoto’s investigation into the nature of time and photography.

Elizabeth II, 1999
gelatin silver print, 58-3/4 x 47 inches

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Portraits is comprised of depictions of historic and contemporary figures, among them Elizabeth I, Napolean Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde, and Princess Diana. Larger than life and meticulously detailed, the photographs were made in various wax museums around the world, especially at Madame Tussaud’s in London. Isolated from their tableaus and photographed against an empty black background, the photographs call to question our relationship to history, each photograph residing in an ambiguous present. Like Sugimoto’s earlier bodies of work –the seascapes, dioramas, and theaters– the artist’s approach is serial and analytically consistent. The result allows the viewer to contemplate the ways in which photography is employed as a tool for recording both history and human nature.

Elizabeth I, 1999
gelatin silver print, 58-3/4 x 47 inches
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1999
gelatin silver print, 58-3/4 x 47 inches

Time has always been an essential element within Sugimoto’s photographs: how we represent and understand it. In his work, Sugimoto investigates the layering of sources used to represent time past. He demonstrates that all representations are necessarily a blend of fiction and reality. In the Portraits, each life-sized interpretation depicts a ‘collapsing of time,’ as each wax figure is based upon an iconic work; sometimes a painting is the source, as with the portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn, and other times a photograph is used, as is the case with Karsh’s image of Winston Churchill. Ultimately Sugimoto makes his ‘portrait’ of each wax figure, such that the final image is necessarily an amalgam of its predecessors.

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