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b. 1948, Tokyo
Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in 1948 in Tokyo. He took his earliest photographs in high school, photographing film footage of Audrey Hepburn as it played in a movie theater. After receiving a BA from Saint Paul’s University in Tokyo in 1970, he traveled west, first encountering communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Poland, and later Western Europe. In 1971, he visited Los Angeles and decided to stay, receiving a BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1972. In 1974, he moved to New York. In 1976 he visited the city’s American Museum of Natural History for the first time and he was intrigued by the lifelike qualities of the dioramas of animals and people. These provided the subject matter for the first of his Dioramas series, which, along with the Seascapes and Theaters series (deadpan, near-abstract photographs of such sites), were conceived between 1976 and 1977 and have continued through the present. He has since developed other ongoing series, including photographs of waxwork-museum figures, drive-in theaters, and Buddhist sculptures, all of which similarly blur distinctions between the real and the fictive. In Praise of Shadows (1998) is a series of photographs based on Gerhard Richter’s paintings of burning candles. His Architecture series (2000–03) consists of blurred images of well-known examples of Modernist architecture. In 2004, Sugimoto began to photograph Richard Serra‚Äôs torqued spiral sculpture Joe, exploring the work‚Äôs dynamic viewpoints and dramatic manipulations of light and shadow; for the publication of this suite of photographs, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer contributed an adjacent textual component. The series Conceptual Forms (also 2004) takes up the subject of Industrial Revolution-era mechanical models used to demonstrate the movements of the rapidly advancing machines of the day. Favoring black-and-white, Sugimoto has continued to use the same camera, a turn-of-the-century box camera, throughout his career.
Sugimoto has had solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Osaka (1989), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1994), Centre International d’Art Contemporain in Montreal (1995), Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston (1996), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2000), Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2000), Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2003), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2006), and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2008), among other venues. He has also participated in numerous international group exhibitions, among them The Art of Memory/The Loss of History at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York (1985), Carnegie International (1991), Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky at the Yokohama Museum of Art and Guggenheim Museum SoHo (1994), Prospect 96 at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (1996), Johannesburg Biennale (1997), International Triennale of Contemporary Art in Yokohama (2001), Moving Pictures (2002) and Singular Forms (2004) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Reality Check at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2008). He received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1980 and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982. In 2001, he won the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. He lives and works in New York and Tokyo.