Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas - the exhibition catalogue from American Museum of Natural History available to buy at Museum Bookstore

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas

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'Like so much of the artist’s work, this series is conceptually brilliant, formally impressive, and ice cold. Which might be the point: we’re so alienated from nature that even the dioramas staged to involve us in animal drama (warthog vs. ostrich, polar bear vs. seal) come off as empty, if elaborate, tableaux.' - The New Yorker

A beautiful collection of Sugimoto's museum Dioramas

Hiroshi Sugimoto (born 1948) began his four-decade-long series Dioramas in 1974, inspired by a trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Surrounded by the museum's elaborate, naturalistic dioramas, Sugimoto realized that the scenes jumped to life when looked at with one eye closed. Recreated forestry and stretches of uninhabited land, wild, crouching animals against painted backgrounds and even prehistoric humans seemed entirely convincing with this visual trick, which launched a conceptual exploration of the photographic medium that has traversed his entire career.

Focusing his camera on individual dioramas as though they were entirely surrounding scenes, omitting their frames and educational materials and ensuring that no reflections enter the shot, his subjects appear as if photographed in their natural habitats. He also explores the power of photography to create history--in his own words, "photography functions as a fossilization of time." Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas narrates a story of the cycle of life, death and rebirth, from prehistoric aquatic life to the propagation of reptile and animal life to Homo sapiens' destruction of the earth, circling back to its renewal, where flora and fauna flourish without man. Here Sugimoto writes his own history of the world, an artist's creation myth.

Hiroshi Sugimoto was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where he studied politics and sociology at Rikky University, later retraining as an artist at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, CA. He currently lives in New York and Tokyo.

Details
  • Hardcover: 118 pages illustrated in duotone throughout
  • Date published: September 2014
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-8862083270
  • Product Dimensions: 28.5 x 25.8 cm
Reviews

'Don't let the ease and beauty of Sugimoto's images fool you. Before you get the idea that you, too, can waltz into your local natural history museum and take photos like this, understand the painstaking amount of craft in each shot. Sugimoto captures his scenes with a large format camera and long exposures sometimes five minutes in length. He adjusts lights and whatever else necessary to bring the taxidermy to life--so successfully that the line between real and fake is often blurred' - Wired 

'A Canadian lynx in fake snow, Alaskan brown bears towering over painted backdrops, and Cro-Magnon families building homes out of bones all appear in Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas, which features highlights from those museum visits. Sugimoto continues to take diorama photos today, fascinated, as he writes, by the way they 'present us with something simultaneously dead and alive.'- Publisher's Weekly 

'Sugimoto uses long exposures, and the feeling I got from his work is just that: of observing something being exposed, something normally hidden, buried, and the uneasy sense that perhaps it was meant to remain hidden, undisturbed. The book with its smaller images is less intense. It's harder to decipher the surprises and ambiguities in the photographs, but they're there. The image on the cover of Dioramas is Sugimoto's photograph of the polar bear looming above a seal that lies, oblong and fat, beside a crack in the pure white ice. The other day, a guest saw the book in my living room and said, "Oh, cute!" then, a quick double take as he noticed the droplets of blood: "Oh... dead."' - The New York Review of Books 

'The Japanese photographer's enormous black-and-white landscapes were made between 1976 and 2012 at natural-history museums. Their subjects are dioramas, displaying taxidermy animals and fake foliage against painted backdrops--dense layers of artifice, to which Sugimoto's photographs add yet another layer. Like so much of the artist's work, this series is conceptually brilliant, formally impressive, and ice cold. Which might be the point: we're so alienated from nature that even the dioramas staged to involve us in animal drama (warthog vs. ostrich, polar bear vs. seal) come off as empty, if elaborate, tableaux.' - The New Yorker 


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