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iroshi Sugimoto’s photographs are hypnotic. Each one envelops you in a trance, inviting a surreal process of examination. Sugimoto’s diligent framing and masterly use of light allows each image to be taken for its content; that of a trace, and of a vision. Using a minimalist aesthetic, Sugimoto images the universal in his Seascapes. Each image in the series is an indistinct body of water, tied to a location only by a caption. This decoupling contributes to the image rendering like a memory, inducing a feeling of familiarity despite the obscure nature of the scenes depicted. These seascapes describe the boundless within the enclosure of a frame. They present the surface of a subject shrouded in mystery and depth, and in doing so suggest a world existing beneath. The components of each image—water and air— exist as independent entities that meet to produce a horizon, or a blurred amalgam. The sea’s appearance may vary, but its reach is constant. It crosses and inhabits distance, serving as both a connection and a gap. Sugimoto’s images take on this ability, addressing the sea’s comprehensiveness while suggesting its mutability. Using the same systematic, straight framing as in his Seascapes, Sugimoto looks towards the man-made in his Theaters. These images occupy a space of delicate contemplation; the scenes are understated and minimalist, yet each screen’s surroundings are articulated with precision. The images are devoid of human presence, emphasizing the environment of the theater. While the intended use of a screen is to be a visual transmitter of content, Sugimoto allows the passing of time to leave each screen glowing and blank. The screens, overrun with content to the point of erasure, become a light by which to view their context. Ambient light slithers through each theater’s edges, exposing each scene to a penetrating glow. Even in the outdoors at a drive-in, the light of the screen duels with that of the sky, rivaling the window into the past that always surrounds us. By encapsulating time these images allow us to disconnect from the screen, and in doing so consider the act of seeing. Both Seascapes and Theaters present subjects that unify. Our connection to air and water is primal, and the act of seeing and imaging is cross-cultural. While each view of the sea may vary, and each theater differ in style, the experiences and environments each creates are universal. Through his images, Sugimoto reveals the possibility of vastness coexisting with a finite, calculable singularity. •

Union City Drive-In, Union City, 1993 © Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Pace Gallery

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ISO Magazine #11: TRACES  
ISO Magazine #11: TRACES  
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