In easy-to-miss Lee Gallery, visitors to Phantoms of Asia will find a row of tiny pagodas on plinths. These are Hiroshi Sugimoto’s vision of the cosmos, rendered in optical quality glass and photographs.
Sugimoto has been creating seascapes since the early 1980s. These seascapes have a personal connection for the artist because he uses the series, which is ongoing, to place events in his own life. It also has a larger meaning; the five-part Japanese pagoda represents the five elements of the cosmos, while the ocean is seen as the source of all life.
In displaying these objects, Sugimoto wants to create a sense of theater. He visited the museum a few times before Phantoms opened and determined every aspect of the room. The yellow didactic panel that explains the work is deliberately outside the room, and the fact that there is no seating was part of the artist’s design. The experience of seeing the piece is part of the work; in the intimacy of close looking the viewer can contemplate their relationship to these objects and to the universe itself.
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