From 23 June to 25 September 2016, Fundación Mapfre is presenting an exhibition in its Madrid exhibition space in Paseo Recoletos 23 on the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, offering a survey of his work through his best-known series.
The exhibition is divided into five sections devoted to the artist’s major series: Theaters (1976-present); Lightning Fields (2006-present); Dioramas (1976-2012); Portraits (1994-1999); and Seascapes (1980-present). On display are a total of 41 large-format works that offer a survey of the artist’s last forty years of artistic activity while also looking forward to future creations, given that some of these series are still ongoing.
June 23 – September 25, 2016
Paseo de Recoletos 23, Madrid
Born in Tokyo in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto moved to the USA in 1970 to study photography. A multi-disciplinary artist, he works in sculpture, architecture, installation and photography and in the latter field is considered one of the most important creative figures working today. Sugimoto’s work is represented in international collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London.
A notably intellectual artist, Sugimoto’s work contains a highly meditated conceptual element that encourages the spectator towards philosophical reflection and which the artist has used to reinterpret some of the principal genres in the classic tradition of photography. Sugimoto is also a master craftsman and has rejected digital technology in favour of traditional methods.
Finally, these images are characterised by great visual beauty and notable technical virtuosity, emphasised by his habitual use of large formats. Taken as a whole, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work constitutes a profound meditation on the nature of perception, illusion, representation, life and death. With this exhibition, Fundación Mapfre is once again presenting the work of a great master of photography as part of an ongoing exhibition programme that has been presented at its galleries since 2009.
Theaters (1976-present) comprises photographs taken at classic movie palaces and drive-in theaters. To make these works, the artist left open the shutter of a large-format camera during the entire showing of full-length films: a simple but radical procedure in which the length of the film determines the exposure time.
This deliberate overexposure of the negative allows for capturing the light that has accumulated on the screen during the entire projection of the film, which takes shape as an empty, white, glowing rectangle, flooded with a luminosity that can be read as a representation of death.
In its entirety, Theaters brilliantly captures the immensity of various concepts relating to time: the long durée of the film is compressed into an instant while the accumulated repertoire of fleeting, animated images becomes abstract and at the same time intensely concrete. It also refers to Sugimoto’s interest in architecture and the aesthetic stylings of time past.
The exhibition opens with this series which was started in 1980 and is still in progress today. It features photographs of the primordial landscape of sea and sky taken at various locations around the world and combining representation and abstraction.
Despite the romantic and almost mystical effects of these works, their titles are factual and documentary, in keeping with the artist’s roots in Conceptual Art. As the artist has explained, with these images he aimed to capture scenes that a primitive man could have recognized and to reflect on what we share with those visions today.
As such, they offer a good example of the way Sugimoto understands the camera as a device possessed of a particular capacity: that of representing the sense of time. It is a quest for origins which, in temporal terms, locates the viewer in the realm of the eternal.