Boden Sea, Uttwil, 1993
Hiroshi Sugimoto (born 1948)
Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in 1948 in Tokyo. He took his earliest photographs in high school, photographing film footage of Audrey Hepburn as it played in a movie theater. After receiving a B.A. from Saint Paulâ’s University in Tokyo in 1970, he traveled west, first encountering communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Poland, and later Western Europe.
In 1971, he visited Los Angeles and decided to stay, receiving a B.F.A. from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1972. In 1974, he moved to New York. Visiting the city’s American Museum of Natural History for the first time two years later, he was intrigued by the lifelike qualities of the dioramas of animals and people. These provided the subject matter for the earliest of his Dioramas series, which, along with the Seascapes and Theaters series (deadpan, near-abstract photographs of such sites), were conceived between 1976 and 1977 and have continued through the present.
He has since developed other ongoing series, including photographs of waxwork-museum figures, drive-in theaters, and Buddha sculptures, all of which similarly blur distinctions between the real and the fictive. In Praise of Shadows (1998) is a series of photographs based on Gerhard Richter’s paintings of burning candles. His recent work includes the Architecture series (2000-03), which consists of blurred images of well-known examples of Modernist architecture. Favoring black-and-white, Sugimoto has continued to use the same camera, a turn-of-the-century box camera, throughout his career.
Over the past few years, his commissions have grown in stature, including upcoming works for the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Japan Society in New York City and a private residence in Manhattan. His most ambitious undertaking is his own Enoura Observatory, a complex in the Enoura district of Odawara, a city on the eastern coast of Japan, about an hour from Tokyo. The project boasts the first structures he has designed from scratch, inside and out. After more than 10 years, his architectural pièce de résistance — which includes exhibition spaces, two Noh stages, a teahouse and the offices of his Odawara Art Foundation — opened last fall, uniting the myriad art forms Sugimoto has explored during his career in one place.
Sugimoto’s work is held in numerous public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery, London; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; MACBA, Barcelona; and Tate Gallery, London