Posts Tagged ‘Sugimoto film theatre

03
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 4th February – 8th June 2014

 

I loved Sugimoto’s time lapse movie screens, where the exact length of a movie was captured by the open lens of the camera, the substance of time and space evidenced by a seemingly empty screen. There was something wonderfully poetic and transformational about that gesture, about the notion of compressing the narrative, reality and action of a movie into a single frame of light: “the ‘annihilation of time and space’ as a particular moment in a dynamic cycle of rupture and recuperation enables a deliberate focus on the process of transition.”1 The process of transition in the flow of space and time.

Sugimoto’s art since that ground breaking body of work has been a bit of a let down. Where the movie theatres photographs were transubstantiationalist, the three series presented here – Dioramas (1975-1994), Portraits (1999) and his newest series, Photogenic Drawings (2008-present) play, if that is the right word, with the re/animation of death. The stuffed animals, the wax figures, the redrawing of William Henry Fox Talbot photogenic drawings, the redrawing of a light already been, just seem DEAD to me – a kind of double death or even triple death – the death of the animal/the death of the photograph, the unreality (the undead) of the wax figures and their death in the photograph, the death of the plant, their capture not once but twice by the death of the photograph. We know exactly what Sugimoto is doing, but the images are stilted and lifeless and I am not convinced by them.

The diorama images are just OK – almost good undergraduate work but nothing more. My problem with the waxworks images and the pencil of nature is “other images”. We all know Cindy Sherman and her images of historical figures, and we know the work of William Henry Fox Talbot. Somehow these earlier images crowd Sugimoto’s work in a way that doesn’t often happen. Winogrand never crowded Friedlander or vice versa – and you can think of many other examples where comparing is actually beneficial… but not here.

I’m not saying Sugimoto is derivative but because of these other works, they don’t have much room to move. Indeed, they hardly move at all. They are so frozen in attitude that all the daring transcendence of light, the light! of space time travel, the transition from one state to another, has been lost. The Flame of Recognition (Edward Weston) – has gone.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

1. McQuire, Scott. The Media City. London: Sage Publications, 2008, p. 14.

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) 'Sam Eric, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5 cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Polar Bear' 1976

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Polar Bear
1976
Gelatin silver print
42.1 x 54.6 cm (16 9/16 x 21 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Wapiti' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Wapiti
1980
Gelatin silver print
34.9 x 58.7 cm (13 3/4 x 23 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Sable Antelope' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Sable Antelope
1994
Gelatin silver print
42.4 x 54.1 cm (16 11/16 x 21 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Manatee' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Manatee
1994
Gelatin silver print
42.2 x 54.1 cm (16 5/8 x 21 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Birds of Japan' 1994

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Birds of Japan
1994
Gelatin silver print
38.7 x 58.4 cm (15 1/4 x 23 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Cheetah' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Cheetah
1980
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 58.7 cm (14 3/8 x 23 1/8 in.)
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'White Rhinoceros' 1980

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
White Rhinoceros
1980
Gelatin Silver Print
34.1 x 58.6 cm (13 7/16 x 23 1/16 in.)
Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

“Since the mid-1970s, Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) has used photography to investigate how history pervades the present. Featuring photographs of habitat dioramas, wax portraits, and early photographic negatives, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense, on view February 4 – June 8, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, brings together three separate bodies of work that present objects of historical and cultural significance in the collections of various museums. By photographing subjects that reimagine or replicate moments from the distant past and diverse geographical locations, Sugimoto critiques the medium’s presumed capacity to portray history with accuracy.

“This exhibition presents work that inventively reframes objects from the collections of a variety of museums, including from our extensive holdings of prints from the early days of photography,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Mr. Sugimoto has generously donated eighteen prints from his recent Photogenic Drawings series, which reprise a selection of important experiments by William Henry Fox Talbot that are in the Getty Museum’s collection.”

Sugimoto’s meticulously crafted prints are the result of a rigorous working method that includes extensive preparatory research, the use of a large-format view camera, and long exposures. Each of his projects is rooted in a sustained exploration of a singular motif and often carried out over many years. The exhibition will present a selection of prints from three bodies of work, Dioramas (1975-1994), Portraits (1999) and, his newest series, Photogenic Drawings (2008-present).

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Dioramas 

The diorama was first introduced in Paris in 1822 by the stage designer Jacques Louis Mandé Daguerre (French, 1787-1851), who later developed the daguerreotype photographic process. Situated in a darkened room, the first diorama consisted of a large painted scene on a semi-transparent curtain that was illuminated by the opening and closing of skylights and the constant shifting or dimming of lamps to create the impression of movement. In the early 20th century, habitat dioramas in natural history museums became popular, staging creatures in their faithfully replicated “natural” environments.

Sugimoto first encountered elaborate animal dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History after moving to New York in 1974, and began to focus his camera on individual scenes shortly thereafter. Omitting the educational text surrounding each display, the works heighten the illusion that animals such as manatees, wapiti, and sea lions were photographed in their natural habitats. While each photograph appears to be a candid moment captured by an experienced nature photographer, the subjects are – in actuality – depicted in poses they hold indefinitely.

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Wax Portraits 

While waxworks have a long history, contemporary wax museums can be traced to the French sculptor Marie Grosholz (French, 1761-1850), who achieved success in the Parisian entertainment market by creating waxworks of popular politicians and cultural figures. After moving to London in 1802, she established a commercial enterprise under the name Madame Tussaud, specializing in the production and display of full-length wax figures modeled after commissioned portraits.

Posed against pitch-black backdrops and framed by the camera in a manner suggesting old master portrait-painting traditions, each of Sugimoto’s subjects was captured with a nine-minute exposure that illuminates the finely modeled expressions and the sumptuous costumes. These life-size photographs record likenesses that have been distilled through multiple reproductions of the original sitter. The source material for the wax figures of Henry VIII and his wives is based on 16th-century panel paintings, while the portrait of Queen Victoria’s likeness is taken from a photograph of her from the 1890s, around the time of her Diamond Jubilee celebration.

“Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographic practice is deeply rooted in a tradition of image making that was developed and perfected during the 19th century,” explains Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “By employing century-old techniques and turning his lens to subjects and compositions that recreate or simulate moments from the past, Sugimoto intimately connects himself to the historical moments depicted.”

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Photogenic Drawings 

In the early 1830s, William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) began trying to create pictures without the aid of a pencil. After coating small pieces of writing paper with a salt solution and silver nitrate, he successfully captured the outlines of leaves and lace placed on the paper and exposed to sunlight. He continued his experiments with a camera obscura, placing a sheet of paper in this precursor to the camera to produce the first negatives, with highlights and shadows reversed. Talbot called the results of these experiments photogenic drawings.

In 2007, Hiroshi Sugimoto visited the J. Paul Getty Museum to study the earliest photographs in the collection. After photographing some of Talbot’s photogenic drawing negatives, he produced large-scale prints and colored them with toning agents during the processing to replicate the often-bright hues of the original sheets. The scale of the enlarged prints reveals the fibers of the original writing paper, which create subtle and delicate patterns embedded in the images.

The artist’s gift of eighteen gelatin silver prints from his Photogenic Drawings series significantly enhances the Museum’s holdings of work by Sugimoto. His photographic practice, rooted in a serial approach and primarily concerned with the medium’s relationship to the passage of time, has long been an important source of influence for a younger generation of artists. The prints greatly enhance the Getty Museum’s growing collection of contemporary photographs.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Past Tense is on view February 4 – June 8, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition will run concurrently in the Center for Photographs with A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography, an exhibition featuring rare private and public photographs from the Victoria era.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Henry VIII' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Henry VIII
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Queen Victoria' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Queen Victoria
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Anne Boleyn' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Anne Boleyn
1999
Gelatin silver print
148.9 x 119.1 cm (58 5/8 x 46 7/8 in.)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Commissioned by Deutsche Bank AG in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Asplenium Halleri, Grande Chartreuse 1821 - Cardamine Pratensis, April 1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Asplenium Halleri, Grande Chartreuse 1821 – Cardamine Pratensis, April 1839
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Roofline of Lacock Abbey, circa 1835-1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Roofline of Lacock Abbey, circa 1835-1839
2008
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Bust of Venus, November 26, 1840' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Bust of Venus, November 26, 1840
2009
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'A Stem of Delicate Leaves of an Umbrellifer, circa 1843-1846' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
A Stem of Delicate Leaves of an Umbrellifer, circa 1843-1846
2009
Gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Arrangement of Botanical Specimens, 1839' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Arrangement of Botanical Specimens, 1839
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Nicolaas Henneman, circa 1841' 2008

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Nicolaas Henneman, circa 1841
2008
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Bust of Patroclus, September 8, 1841' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Bust of Patroclus, September 8, 1841
2009
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Artist
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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