Condensing Temporality

Condensing Temporality

Two simultaneous exhibitions in London and Paris will present two of the major ongoing projects in the work of Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948). The artist, who divides his time between Tokyo and New York, is best known for his Theatres series (1978-present) in which he visits theatres and cinemas, often abandoned and dilapidated from their former grandeur, and projects a film in the space, which he photographs with a long exposure set to the duration of the film. The film’s moving images become condensed into a single pure white frame through this process. In his wider practice, working across photography, sculpture, installation and most recently architecture, Sugimoto explores his concerns of time, memory and societal progress, tracing their origins, while bridging Eastern and Western ideologies.

Snow White, a collection of images from the Theatres series, is the first exhibition of Sugimoto’s work by the gallery, and will for the first time reveal the identity of many of the films that feature in the series. Reflecting the various economic downturns and changes in patterns of public entertainment since their inception, the composition of the abandoned theatre images evokes Piranesi’s depictions of classical ruins. Recent locations include a number of Italian opera houses, and two of the earliest Renaissance theaters in Italy, the Palladio-designed Teatro Olimpico, Vincenza and the Teatro all’Antica, Sabbioneta. These classical buildings are the architectural ancestors of the American movie theatres which the artist originally began photographing.

Running at the same time, the Paris gallery presents Surface Tension, a collection of images from the artist’s Seascapes series (1980–). For Sugimoto, contemplating and photographing the sea connects the present to the past and the history of the seas to the land where he sets up his camera. Each work has it its own unrepeatable characteristics, of weather, atmosphere and the illumination of the sun or the moon. The singular unifying element is the perfectly balanced composition, divided dead centre by the horizon line. Works here range from the 1990s to his 2017 images of the Tasman Sea.  Alongside this, the Paris show will also include five works from the optical glass sculpture series known as the Five Elements. Taking the form of a pagoda, it is comprised of five shapes, each with a meaning drawn from the Buddhist cosmological doctrine of the Five Universals.

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Snow White and Surface Tension, 26 October – 22 December; Marian Goodman Gallery, London. For more information:

1. From Hiroshi SugimotoSnow White.