This Week In Photography Books – Hiroshi Sugimoto and Mark Rothko

by Jonathan Blaustein

Last week, I wrote about the Holocaust. It’s a hard one to follow, even for someone like me, who rarely lacks an opinion. (Are you kidding me? That salsa was way too bland. What kind of a person serves coffee that bitter? How many times are you going to tweet about your upcoming exhibition?)

As I was saying, given how much I like to control the flow of my week-to-week ramblings, writing about the worst event of the 20th Century leaves me in a bit of a pickle. Do I go right back to the heavy stuff, and risk ruining your weekend? Or do I trot out something light and fluffy, the photo book equivalent of a cuddly, stuffed bunny?

How about neither? Given that the Roman Vishniac article might bring a reasonable person to question the existence of a higher power, how about we contemplate the counter-argument? When we think of the sublime, we relish feeling small. We delight in the reminder that powers greater than we can comprehend make planets dance around stars, and waves crash on every shore. Right?

Hiroshi Sugimoto and Mark Rothko are two seemingly unrelated artists, one living, one dead. One guy photographs, the other was a painter. (How’s that for brilliant exposition? Tell us more, Blaustein.) I can’t pretend that there is more to the book I’m about to mention, because there isn’t. “Rothko/Sugimoto,” a new book published by Pace London, doesn’t seem to have ambitions beyond putting the two famous men’s work together in one volume.

Here’s a Rothko, and then, here’s a Sugimoto. And then here’s another Rothko, and here’s another Sugimoto. The pattern is not that hard to discern. As you turn the pages, you’ll find yourself guessing, rather successfully, what will come next. (Unless you’re really, really bad at prognostication. In which case, I’d love to play you in Rock/Paper/Scissors.)

Am I mailing it in today? I’m not sure. Is that allowed on a hot summer day? Are you going to call the Blogger Police? Will they suspend my Hotmail account for a couple of days as a punishment? All kidding aside, today, I just wanted to give you some beautiful, meaningful photos to contemplate. Mission accomplished. (How many George W. references is that this year?)

Bottom Line: Ham-fisted premise, great pictures

To Purchase “Rothko/Sugimoto” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


Jonathan Blaustein

There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. A great idea for a book, but nothing too original about the concept. There are Filckr groups devoted to “Rothkoesque” photos, many of which are Hiroshi-esque too. Horizons seem to evoke the Rothko in a lot of people. But in general abstract photography is a very interesting genre and has a lot to offer.

    I saw some Hiroshi prints at a museum exhibit once. Absolutely beautiful. Some of the most memorizing photography I’ve ever seen.

  2. DC Photographer

    Unfortunately, IMO pairing the two artists in the same book devalues both. Does abstract photography need painting in order to be considered art?

  3. There were several Rothkos at a recent Art Gallery of Ontario show, and even in a busy room the meditative potential showed, but it was impossible to “experience” the image as one might want to. A book, which is a private medium, might be the way to exhibit this kind of image. It’s clear to me that a busy gallery is not the way. But then, the artist produced the work as a wall hanging. It’s a head scratcher.

    Rothko can be forgiven making wall hung paintings he didn’t know would be so popular, but a digital artist has no excuse for ignoring how the pixels will be presented to viewers.

    • Rothkos that are in the permanent collection of a museum and that have been on display for awhile usually aren’t all that popular and you can definitely enjoy them quietly and serenely. That’s been my experience anyway. So if you ever get a chance, that’s the way to see them.

    • Try visiting the Rothko Chapel in Houston…I think you will find the “serenity” you seek there.

  4. While it is easy to see the influences on Sugimoto and these pairings seem interesting on the surface. Rothko paintings and paintings in general do not generate the same experience in print media. Prints of paintings are a pale copy and flat without the presence of a painting. The real value of a Rothko or Rembrant or any of the masters is in the original work. Paintings have a life that is sucked out of them when reproduced in books. Not even close to the same impact.

  5. I am interested in images that make words…”words are very, unnecessary they can only do harm” We need to clarify what photography is, and isn’t. This simply, isn’t.

  6. Mike Moss

    I’ve got a picture of my shower curtain that looks just like a Sugimoto Rothko.