Photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Essays by David Elliott, Kerry Brougher and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2005. 368 pp., 130 tritone and 45 color illustrations, 10x11".
Like Isamu Noguchi before him, Hiroshi Sugimoto has
been tasked with building aesthetic bridges between East
and West. The danger in this is that we tend to distort the
work when we view it through the overworked filters of
Zen Buddhism, the Floating World, Superflat, or whatever
our mind conjures when we think about Japanese art.
Though Sugimoto is a Zen practitioner, he studied the Zen
discipline in Southern California after immigrating to the
U.S. in 1970. If anything, Sugimoto’s photography has
become more “Japanese” during his three decades in
America, if by that we mean that it has become more
spare, and more exquisite in its subtle treatment of light
and shadow. His work
was initially heavily influenced
by the minimalist
American art scene of
the 1970s, but he has
carved a unique niche in
the photographic world
during the intervening
decades. This thoughtful
brings together his bestknown
the dioramas, the movie theaters, the ocean series and
others. The accompanying text is especially illuminating,
as the artist describes how the idea for each type of work
occurred to him, and how he worked to express on paper
what he saw in his mind’s eye. Sugimoto’s signature is
simplicity, which expresses itself most often in elegant
black-and-white imagery, captured with a view camera.
The pictures often convey a strange sense of lifelike
stillness, the mysterious joy of recognition that comes to
a calm, balanced mind. The compressed time and expansive
space in the work are strangely soothing; it’s as if
camera vision, for the photographer, is proof that the
turbulent phenomenal world we live in is, as it should be,
just a passing fancy. PHIL HARRIS
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