Closing on October 31st at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco is a new exhibition of magnificent photographs by the internationally acclaimed artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. The exhibition marks a new body of work for the artist, which began last year, entitled Lightning Fields. Included in the exhibition are several large-scale black and white photographs that the artist created by using a 400,000-volt Van De Graaff generator to apply an electrical charge directly to the film. The results are stunning patterns, for which the artist has very little to no control, which mimic massive lightning forms, fur, organic botanical matter, and even at times the patterns will take on the organic forms of an insect under a microscope.
This phenomena of electricity altering film is not new to photographers. Static electricity has been plaguing darkroom users, destroying images with unintentional electrical scars since the beginning of the medium. Sugimoto embraces and challenges this otherwise problematic occurrence in order to push the boundaries of what photography can achieve, while also offering a nod to previous scientific and photographic discoveries made by his predecessors. When speaking about this new series of work, Sugimoto has stated “The idea of observing the effects of electrical discharges on photographic dry plates reflects my desire to re-create the major discoveries of these scientific pioneers [Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, and William Fox Talbot] in the darkroom and verify them with my own eyes.”
Sugimoto is arguably one of the most innovative photographers of our time. He was born in Japan in 1948 and lives and works in Japan and New York. Since the 1970’s, the artist has created photographs that conceptually challenge the history and current role of the photographic image, as well as investigate ideas related to time, empiricism, and metaphysics. The artist has created many successful bodies of work over the past four decades including his Seascapes, Dioramas, Theaters, historical portraits from Madame Tussaud’s wax figures, Architecture, Colors of Shadows and Conceptual forms. Each of these series were shot in stark black and white.
The artist has exhibited in countless venues across the world and has completed solo exhibition in many major museums in the United States and Japan. Exhibitions this year include Nature of Light at the Izu Photo Museum in Mishima, Lightning Fields at Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo, Light of Coffin at Benesse Park, Naoshima and History of History at the National Museum of Art in Osaka.