This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Hiroshi Sugimoto’s three-channel video, “Accelerated Buddha,” explores the nature of time and space, life and death, art and spirituality (photo courtesy the artist’s studio)

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s three-channel video, “Accelerated Buddha,” explores the nature of time and space, life and death, art and spirituality (photo courtesy the artist’s studio and Pace Gallery)

Pace Gallery
510 West 25th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Saturday through March 5, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto explores the nature of impermanence and the relationship between art and spirituality in his multimedia installation “Sea of Buddha,” on view through March 5 at Pace on West Twenty-Fifth St. In 1995, after a seven-year effort, Sugimoto was given permission to photograph the one thousand gilded wooden Buddha statues at Sanjῡsangen-dō (Hall of Thirty-Three Bays) in Kyoto, at a specific time in the morning when the general public is not allowed in and the summer sun casts a particularly special glow on the objects. Perhaps “given” is the wrong word, as he had to pay the temple handsomely for the privilege (and still has to hand over an additional fee every time he displays the photographs). Sugimoto, who lives and works in Tokyo and New York and has previously re-created reality in such series as “Portraits,” “Dioramas,” and “Theaters,” took forty-eight black-and-white pictures of the very similar but not identical statues. Only thirty-six were able to fit in his installation at Pace, where they are arranged at eye level on two sides of an oval room that serves as a kind of shrine. Numbers are critical to the project; Sugimoto, who was inspired by Walter De Maria’s “The Broken Kilometer,” has stated that the total number of photos relate to the forty-eight stages of death; thirty-three (the number of bays at Sanjῡsangen-dō) is a popular numeral in the Bible, associated with Noah, Jesus, King David, Jacob, and others; and some Buddhist teachings state that one thousand enlightened Buddhas will bring wisdom to the world. At first glance, the photos look the same, taken from the same angle, but each Buddha is as different as each human on the planet. An enveloping serenity can be felt as you make your way through the space, more spiritual than religious. In a small adjoining area, Sugimoto’s “Accelerated Buddha” plays on a loop, a mesmerizing five-minute immersive video, projected corner-to-corner onto three sides of the room, in which Sugimoto cuts between the forty-eight photos at an ever-faster pace, starting off very slowly and ending up in a furious blur, echoing the subjective human experience of time from birth to death while also evoking Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms. The exhibition also features five of Sugimoto’s “Seascapes,” gelatin silver prints of horizon lines on the ocean, quiet, entrancing shots of water and air. “Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home,” Sugimoto has said of the series. “I embark on a voyage of seeing.” Sugimoto’s latest show at Pace is yet another voyage well worth seeing.

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