Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Sea of Buddha
I can’t recall the first time I saw Hiroshi Sugimoto. It was possibly at the Hirshhorn in Washington, DC in 2006 when he took life-size portraits of wax figures of the Tudors. What I really love is his overexposed Theaters series, but I can’t even remember if I’ve seen them in person, or if I’ve read my coffee table book so many times that I feel like I have. One time while in line at the Guggenheim gift shop, I overheard a woman with long gray waves talking about how she had the opportunity to buy a Hiroshi Sugimoto Seascape for $5,000 when she was in her 20s. But then, $5,000 was far too expensive because she was a struggling artist. I don’t know if she’s still struggling, or still an artist, but she can definitely afford that Seascape now and has regretted her art purchasing decision, or lack thereof, for years.
I was so excited to see banners in Chelsea advertising Sugimoto’s latest exhibit, Sea of Buddha, at Pace. There are 33 black and white photographs that make up Sea of Buddha. They are images of the one thousand statues in Kyoto’s Hall of Thirty-Three Bays, a temple dating to 1266 AD. They all look the same, creating the impression of a limitless expanse – or sea – of figures. This repetition is actually a Buddhist practice; by replicating manifestations of a deity, you can achieve spiritual merit.
Let me introduce you to Senju Kannon, the one-thousand-armed bodhisattva of compassion.