I went to see the Hiroshi Sugimoto survey at the Hirshorn with my parents this past Saturday. The show has received a lot hype- most of it about the installation (which really is pretty incredible). The work is good- it's conceptually engaging, and the images are beautiful objects (the architecture series! the sea scapes!).
Sugimoto has many concerns/questions that he explores with his work. One is the nature of reality and how our reality is affected by the camera-image. The exhibit starts with his earliest series of images: photographs of dioramas from natural history museums. Concise wall text accompanies each body of work in the exhibit- to introduce the diorama series, Sugimoto says something to the effect of having been struck with the articfice of the diorama when he first saw them in NYC. He also says that he realized that by closing one eye while looking at them he could make the imagined space appear more real. This led him to photograph them- to turn them into two dimensional, black and white representations, thereby giving them a credence, a verisimilitude not evident when standing in front of them. In essence, by photographing these fake scenes, he was making them more real.
After leaving the Hirshorn we went to the Botanical Gardens so my mom could take a picture of an orchid for my Aunt Vera. Although I am a fan of flora- I love to identify flowers, trees, and shrubs- the Botanical garden has always rubbed me the wrong way. My mom ran around with her digi, snapping away and I went into the "jungle" to bask in the humidity and hope that I might see a monkey (there are no monkeys). After sitting for a few minutes on a bench next to a bridge molded to resemble a fallen redwood and feeling alienated and undoubtedly oozing some serious ex-suburban ennui, I realized I could take a picture of this ridiculousness, convert it to black and white, and tell you that I went to the jungle this past weekend.
Some advice if you plan to go to the Hirshorn (and you should go- if nothing else, it's free): go early! We arrived Saturday at 10:15 and had the galleries to ourselves. I'd skip the Botanical Garden (unless your mom needs a picture of an orchid or you've got the hankering for humidity and want to look for monkeys-there aren't any monkeys).