While sitting on my front porch in early February, I made a few photos of the setting moon at about 8am..
While watching watching the moon continuing its descent…
I began to think about the presence of the moon in fine art. Without resorting to my iPhone and Wikipedia and thus separating myself from the *observation of nature - relying in other words on a far more imperfect memory - two iconic images came to mind, Ansel Adams’ ‘Moonrise over Hernandez’ …
…and Van Gogh’s Starry Nights
…and Whistler who more often painted moonlight rather than the moon itself. Of course there are many genre paintings featuring kitschy moons and there are abstract works with moonlike metaphors.
Robert Motherwell, Monster ( for Charles Ives)
Then I remembered I had seen many Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts with moons in their sky.
both by the incomparable Yoshitoshi
Later that morning, by a providential coincidence, Dr Marcus Bunyon’s blog, Art Bart which often brings work to my attention I previously hadn’t seen, featured several 1990 works by the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto who has put his inimitable stamp on the moon with his series Revolutions…
Installation photograph of Hiroshi Sugimoto. Revolution at Museum Brandhorst, Munich, 2012
Photo: Haydar Koyupinar © 2012 Hiroshi Sugimoto
preceding three images © 2012 Hiroshi Sugimoto
A fascinating aspect of these photographs is Sugimoto’s decision to turn the images on their side, thus re-inventing the horizon as well as formally creating elegant semi-abstract works somewhat reminiscent of Chinese scroll paintings. Such a simple device with such complex results…Sugimoto never ceases to amaze. Time is often Sugimoto’s subject matter as seen in several of the moon images, and you only have to recall his images made in a various theaters which combine baroque architecture with a blank movie screen. But the screen is anything but conceptually blank because it contains every moment of a given movie photographed with the camera shutter left open for the duration of the film. There is nothing for the eye to see and everything for the mind to contemplate.
© 2012 Hiroshi Sugimoto
I remember an amusing story about Sugimoto’s making of this series: it seems the photographer decided to adopt a disguise so he wouldn’t be noticed: “Dressed as a tourist I walked into a cheap Village cinema with a large format camera”. When the lights came up at the film’s end wouldn’t a somewhat elderly Japanese man dressed like a tourist with a view camera on a tripod perhaps be noticed? If I ever meet this great artist I might inquire about how his desire for anonymity went.
*The separation between man and nature began long before the iPhone, the internet and Wikipedia. As Yaakov Jerome Garba, a professor at Brown University writes in Use and Misuse of the Whole Earth Image. : “The metaphysical separation between humans and their surroundings began when Judeo-Christian monotheistic religions of a god who existed ‘out there’ replaced religions in which local pagan spirits inhabited all living matter.”