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Born in Tokyo in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto moved to the USA in 1970 to study photography.

A multi-disciplinary artist, he works in sculpture, architecture, installation and photography.

He reportedly took his earliest photographs in high school, photographing film footage of Audrey Hepburn as it played in a movie theater.

In 1970, Sugimoto studied politics and sociology at Rikkyō University in Tokyo. In 1974, he retrained as an artist and received his BFA in Fine Arts at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California.

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Hyena, Jackal, Vulture, 1976. Gelatin silver print © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Afterwards, Sugimoto settled in New York City. He soon started working as a dealer of Japanese antiquities in Soho.

With extreme attention to light and shadow, Sugimoto sees his work as a way of exploring our ideas and understanding of memory, its preservation and its representation.

This is most apparent in his ongoing series Seascapes, which began in 1980.

Writing of the series, Sugimoto says: “Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence.

“The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity.

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Lightning Fields 327, 2014 © Hiroshi Sugimoto

“Let’s just say that there happenedto be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the rightdistance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example.

“Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I viewthe sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on avoyage of seeing.”

Sugimoto’s work is represented in international collections such as the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London.

Working with traditional methods, the artist reinterprets some of the principal genres in the classic tradition of photography, engaging with highly meditated conceptual elements.

The exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam, is divided into five sections devoted to the artist’s major series: Theaters (1976-ongoing); Lightning Fields (2006-ongoing); Dioramas (1976-2012); Portraits (1994-1999); and Seascapes (1980-ongoing).

On display are a total of 34 large-format works, selected by guest curator Philip Larratt-Smith, that offer a survey of the artist’s last forty years of artistic activity.

More information is available here.

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is a Correspondent for The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper*, BBC, The Telegraph, CNN, Independent, Foam, New Statesman, Wired, Vice and The Royal Photographic Society Journal, for whom he won Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards 2020.

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