detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Wednesday, August 08, 2001

portrait of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin by Hiroshi Sugimoto

"In this new body of work, Portraits...[Hiroshi] Sugimoto has wax figures...Unlike his earlier depictions of dioramic displays found in natural history museums and tableaux of famous persons in wax museums, these images are larger-than-life-size, black-and-white portraits of historical figures past and present, including Henry VIII, Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, and Princess Diana, which are photographed against dramatically lit, black backdrops. Working in a scale entirely new to his oeuvre, Sugimoto isolated the wax effigies from the staged vignettes in waxworks museums, posed them in three-quarter-length view, and illuminated them so as to create haunting Rembrandtesque portraits. His painterly renditions are lush with detail and recall the various painting sources—such as David, Holbein, Leonardo, and Vermeer—from which the wax figures were originally drawn. Sugimoto's contemporary subjects, individuals who already inhabit our culture's collective unconscious, similarly engage issues of commemoration and the cult of celebrity.
Sugimoto rekindles a dialogue that has existed since photography's invention: the relationship between painting and the medium of mechanical reproduction."

Hiroshi Sugimoto's portraits will be on view at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo through November 10.

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