Hiroshi Sugimoto - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Video


    Phillips presents Hiroshi Sugimoto's 'Lake Superior, Cascade River', 1995 in New York's Photographs Evening Sale, 1 April 2015.

  • Provenance

    Private collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Sugimoto: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 21 November 1995 - 14 January 1996; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 31 July - 1 September 1996; Hara Museum ARC, Gunma 14 September - 15 December 1996; Akron Art Museum, 4 April - 31 May 1998
    Sugimoto: Sala de Exposiciones da Fundación "la Caixa", Madrid, 29 May - 26 July 1998; Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisboa, 16 October 1998 - 24 January 1999
    Hiroshi Sugimoto: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 17 September 2005 - 9 January 2006; Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 16 February - 14 May 2006

  • Literature

    Hatje/Cantz, Hiroshi Sugimoto, p. 137
    Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Sugimoto, p. 73
    Fundación “la Caixa” e Centro Cultural de Belém, Sugimoto, p. 173
    Sugimoto, Hiroshi Sugimoto: History of History, p. 287

  • Catalogue Essay

    Like sea shells washed ashore, floating unencumbered, a fragment of time
    drifts toward the depth of my consciousness.
    Gazing upon the sea, I feel I may arrive at its origin from that bygone time
    by retracing that which drifts from beyond.
    This saga commenced with the sea and it shall end with the sea. Like the
    human civilization that flourished amidst the glacial periods.
    Will the splendid moon rise above the stark night sea?

    —Hiroshi Sugimoto

    “Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing.”—Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Throughout a formidable career that has spanned for nearly four decades, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto has continuously explored the limits of photography, perhaps most notably in rebuking connotations of instantaneity. Over multiple bodies of work—from prehistoric dioramas to movie theatres, architectural masterpieces, wax figures and as seen in the current lot, seascapes—the artist has elegantly negated the common misconception that a camera’s strength lies in its accurate capturing of a given moment. “To me photography works as the fossilization of time,” the artist has reflected. “The accumulation of time and history becomes a negative of the image.” Awareness of the passing of time, therefore, is integral to the strength of his photographs.

    In his Seascapes series, of which the current lot is a superb example, Sugimoto focused on life’s most rudimentary building blocks, water and air, for their strength as “the most abstract themes.” In preparation for each image, the artist spent anywhere between one and three weeks staying at the location, observing the sea, never from a boat, always on the ground. “I feel like I’m part of that nature and landscape,” he has explained. “I start feeling ‘This is the creation of the universe and I’m witnessing it.’” The reference to creation is noteworthy, as the series is remarkably devoid of any contemporaneous references. Sugimoto’s horizons are consistently minimalist, lacking ships, aircrafts, distant lands, birds, clouds, stars or people. They are stripped down to how the sea would have likely existed for millions of years, well before the introduction of any of the aforementioned man-made influences. Their physical presence under Sugimoto’s lens is subsequently transformed into a spiritual essence.

    In Lake Superior, Cascade River, the sea and sky at first glance appear to have merged into a single entity, fully and deeply black. Indeed, they appear as a single primordial block, one in which air and water are indistinguishable. However, a closer look reveals a magnificent sliver of light on the horizon, a reflective hint of the moon’s presence. Its subtle appearance is poetic and eloquent, making itself seen only upon closer inspection and deep meditation. Under Sugimoto’s lens, Lake Superior is transformed into a Rothko Black-Form painting. Like Rothko’s late-in-life paintings, Sugimoto’s image gradually and patiently reveals subdued details, confident in its ability to seduce and slowly mesmerize the viewers. As an elegant anchor in the horizon, it asserts its presence as a reward to those who have taken the time to study it and allowed the tranquility of the image to gradually reveal its beauty and strength. “Stillness,” Sugimoto has said, “is not something that I am promoting, but most people see it. And it’s very quiet, and serene.” The gentle unfolding of the nuances embedded within the image indeed leave the viewers feeling calm, centered and appreciative of a most understated sight of timeless beauty.

  • Artist Biography

    Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Japanese • 1948

    Hiroshi Sugimoto's work examines the concepts of time, space and the metaphysics of human existence through breathtakingly perfect images of theaters, mathematical forms, wax figures and seascapes. His 8 x 10 inch, large-format camera and long exposures give an almost eerie serenity to his images, treating the photograph as an ethereal time capsule and challenging its associations of the 'instant.' 

    In his famed Seascapes, Sugimoto sublimely captures the nature of water and air, sharpening and blurring the elements together into a seamless, formless entity.  This reflection of the human condition and its relationship with time follows through his exploration of historical topics and timeless beauty as he uniquely replicates the world around us.

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Lake Superior, Cascade River

Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted.
46 3/4 x 58 1/2 in. (118.7 x 148.6 cm)
Signed in ink, printed title, date and number 2/5 on a gallery label affixed to the reverse of the frame.

$350,000 - 550,000 

Sold for $305,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm