Dec. 18 Art Minute: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Five Elements: Lake Superior, Eagle River, No. 53552.01

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Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948), Five Elements: Lake Superior, Eagle River, No. 53552.01. Optical glass, cast, assembled, with inlaid black and white film transparency, 2011. 6 in. by 3 in. by 3 in. Museum purchase, 2012.8. On view in the special installation Collecting Now: Recent Acquisitions, Canaday Gallery

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948), Five Elements: Lake Superior, Eagle River, No. 53552.01. Optical glass, cast, assembled, with inlaid black and white film transparency, 2011. 6 in. by 3 in. by 3 in. Museum purchase, 2012.8. On view in the special installation Collecting Now: Recent Acquisitions, Canaday Gallery

Shaped like a five-story Japanese Buddhist pagoda, this glass sculpture references miniature shrines made of rock crystal, a material revered in the early Buddhist world for its purity and its ability to transmit light. The five stacked elements represent, from bottom to top: the earth (cube), water (sphere), fire (pyramid), wind (hemisphere), and space (tear-drop shape), and together symbolize the cosmos. The optical glass of the pagoda amplifies the seascape image within—a photograph of Lake Superior—alluding to the concept of infinity within the earthly realm.

The encased film transparency is from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ongoing ‘Seascapes’ series of black and white photographs, his best-known work.


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