Hiroshi Sugimoto: Still Life

Tokyo-born Hiroshi Sugimoto has lived and worked in New York since 1974. For the last two decades he has devoted himself to three intensive and continuing studies: Dioramas, Theaters, and Seascapes. The current exhibition is comprised of his most recent dioramas made across the world in the past two years.

Until now, all of Sugimoto’s Still Lifes have been made in natural history museums, questioning the nature of photograph “as witness,” as well as the way in which the medium represents the world in two dimensions. This ideology continues in the current exhibition which is comprised not only of natural history museums (including the Academy of Sciences, San Francisco) but also Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, London and the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, California. Sugimoto has expanded his study to include the mysteries of prehistoric marine life, the majesty of Queen Victoria, the methods of the Boston Strangler, and the glamour of Elizabeth Taylor.

Fidel Castro, 1999
gelatin silver print, 36-7/8 x 29-1/2 inches (image & sheet) [93.7 x 74.9 cm]

Originally appropriated from life, dioramas are abstracted further by means of black-and-white translation and careful cropping until they appear nearly resuscitated. Upon closer inspection, the artificial aspect of their content becomes apparent. The organic turns inorganic; all is artifice. The photograph, like the diorama, is a theater of spectacles, a simulacrum.

Currently the focus of a retrospective at the Kunsthalle, Basel, Sugimoto’s work is exhibited internationally. His photographs are included in countless private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago among others.

This exhibition is concurrent with Lee Friedlander: The Little Screens.

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