In 1997, Hiroshi Sugimoto began a series of photographs of significant works of modernist architecture, intending “to trace the beginnings of our age via architecture.”
One of the hallmarks of Sugimoto’s work is his technical mastery of the medium. He makes photographs exclusively with an 8 x 10” view camera, and his silver gelatin prints are renowned for their tonal range, total lack of grain, wealth of detail and overall optical precision. In making the Architecture photographs, however, he inverted his usual process: “Pushing out my old large-format camera’s focal length to twice-infinity... I discovered that superlative architecture survives the onslaught of blurred photography. Thus I began erosion-testing architecture for durability, completely melting away many of the buildings in the process.” The language of architectural modernism is distilled in photographs of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao.
By virtue of their blurriness and lack of color, the images strip down buildings to their essence, what we might imagine was the architect’s first, pure vision of form. The details of construction and imperfections that are a natural result of a massive, collaborative human undertaking, are absent, and instead light and shadow define the forms of these buildings.
The Architecture photographs continue the artist’s longstanding investigations of the passage of time and of history. Are these monuments to human ingenuity and the power of the industrial age as eternal as they seem?
'Architecture' contains 90 photographs, 19 of which are previously unpublished.