Hiroshi Sugimoto, Past Presence 001, Tall Figure, III, Alberto Giacometti, 2013
© Hiroshi Sugimoto © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris + ADAGP, Paris) 2020
HIROSHI SUGIMOTO｜Past Presence
March 14 – August 29, 2020
In this exhibition, we will be showing 4 works from the new series Past Presence for the first time in Japan. In this series, Sugimoto explores his continued interest in the philosophic notion of space and time through a canon of twentieth-century modern masterworks. Giacometti, Brancusi, Picasso and Magritte’s works are photographed the same way as in his earlier Architecture series, using the technique ‘twice as infinity’ as Sugimoto calls. By intentionally blurring the focal point, he purifies the details. In effect, it conjures the original conception nascent in the artist’s mind in idealistic form, while we the viewer unconsciously seek associations. Sugimoto challenges the viewer to call upon our visual memory, evoking questions of how images are remembered, and whether the images are recalled in precise recollection or not. Removed from the familiar, Sugimoto asks us to contemplate the inchoate essence of an artwork.
Currently, Sugimoto is having three exhibitions in Japan. The first, “HYOGU–– Frame of Japan” is on view at Hosomi Museum (Kyoto) through September 6, 2020. The second, “HIROSHI SUGIMOTO –– POST VITAM” is held at the Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum (Kyoto) until October 4, 2020. The third, he will join the group exhibition “STARS: Six Contemporary Artists from Japan to the World” at Mori Art Museum (Tokyo).
In 2013 MoMA commissioned me to photograph their sculpture garden. Designed by Philip Johnson, it is home to many masterpieces of Modernist sculpture. Among the many famous pieces there, a Giacometti sculpture was the first to catch my eye. The form is extenuated—as if all the flesh had been scraped off a human body—while what remains successfully expresses the condition of being in extremis. This sculpture of Giacometti had already achieved what I set out to achieve with my own approach to photography. I therefore photographed the Giacometti sculpture twice, once in broad daylight and once in the evening twilight. For me, it evoked an image of two figures in Noh drama. Noh is about dead souls coming back to life and becoming visible. In the maeshite (the first half of a Noh play), the dead take human form and lament their own passing. In the nochishite (second half), the ghosts of the dead reappear again dance a dance of bitter sorrow because they cannot rest easily in their graves. In the performance one catches a glimpse of the dead, though the degree of reality depends not just on the power of the acting, but, to a large extent, on the viewer’s own imaginative abilities. Photographing Giacometti gave me the sense of watching a Noh drama, because in Noh the past is reborn as the present. Inspired by Giacometti, I went on to photograph other sculptures in the garden.
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