Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present the first U.S. exhibition of new, large-format photographs of abandoned theaters by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sugimoto began his artistic exploration of movie theaters in the late 1970s and continued throughout the 1990s, creating each photograph in a working theater while a film was being projected on a screen. In Remains to be Seen, on view at 49 Geary Street from September 8 – October 22, 2016, the artist has taken his poetic study of movie palaces further in time, to the point of architectural extinction. His new series of photographs look deeply into the seductive details of theaters that have been neglected and fallen into ruin.
As in the artist’s earlier photographs of movie houses, the exposure time is the entire length of the film being projected. However, for his recent work, the artist has personally chosen the specific films and brought them to these derelict theaters in which movies are no longer screened. To create his photograph of the Paramount Theater in Newark, New Jersey, for example, the exposure time was 134 minutes while Sugimoto projected On the Beach (1959), the post-apocalyptic film about nuclear war directed by Stanley Earl Kramer.
In instances when there was no existing movie screen, a stage curtain becomes a subtly textured backdrop to the projection. For other deserted theaters, Sugimoto brought his own screen and placed it on the stage or proscenium in order to project the film. In each resulting photograph, the movie is seen only as a glowing white rectangle that appears suspended in space, illuminating the mysterious effects of the passage of time.
Over the past 40 years, time itself has been the overarching subject explored by Sugimoto through his photography. The artist recently commented, “I feel that I’m in a very interesting position, where I’m standing back to look at this change, at this moment in history of human beings…I want to witness how this big story of humans ends. It may keep running, or there might be a turning point to going backward. I don’t know whether the future or 2018 exists or not…”
In a number of Sugimoto’s major exhibitions from the past 10 years, such as The History of History (Japan Society, New York and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.) and Aujourd’hui, le monde est mort [Lost Human Genetic Archive] (Palais de Tokyo, Paris), the artist has placed his work in a context that extends from ancient history to the end of time. Among his other recent museum exhibitions are Past Tense at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and Past and Present in Three Parts, at Chiba City Museum of Art, Japan, and Multimedia Museum of Art, Moscow. Sugimoto’s exhibition Lost Human Genetic Archive will be on view at Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in fall 2016.