Creating Sparks

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Collected Works

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s graphic black and white images are stark yet complex, reductive yet transcendental. Like his heroes—notably, the American minimalist sculptor Donald Judd, whose work he first encountered after moving to New York in the 1970s—Sugimoto recasts the world around him into imposing, implacable surfaces, from the misty gradients of his early "Seascapes" to his abstracted reinterpretations of Richard Serra’s sculpture Joe. Though his preferred tools are natural light and a large format camera, he has an inquisitive, experimental approach to the history of art and photography: in his "Photogenic Drawing" series he re-developed early negatives of 19th-century photographic father Henry Fox Talbot, while in his "Portraits" he photographed waxworks of historical figures to recreate sitting sessions of the past. His latest series re-imagines the Eureka moments of electricity forebears Benjamin Franklin and Michael Faraday. Sugimoto created these enchanting, deceptively organic-looking images—an unseen selection of which we exhibit here—by applying 400,000 volts to photographic film using a Van de Graaff generator, varying the results by toying with a range of different utensils and allowing environmental factors including humidity to come into play. A new, expanded edition of Sugimoto’s collected works, Hiroshi Sugimoto, is published by Hatje Kantz this April.

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