Critics’ Picks

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Surface of Revolution with Constant Negative Curvature (Mathematical Model 009), 2006, aluminum and mirror, 76 x 27 1/2".

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Surface of Revolution with Constant Negative Curvature (Mathematical Model 009), 2006, aluminum and mirror, 76 x 27 1/2".

Washington, DC

Hiroshi Sugimoto

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street NW
February 7–May 10, 2015

Sculpture is only a sliver of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s practice. It’s a shame there isn’t more of it: This project show finds the Japanese artist tabbing effortlessly between dimensions. A trio, no, a trinity of sculptural works in machined aluminum dwells on the same sense of arrested time that Sugimoto captures in his photographs. “Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models,” a sampling of his sculpture and related photography, is a satellite of a larger survey also at the Phillips on Man Ray’s “Shakespearean Equations” paintings. Both shows revolve around nineteenth-century mathematical models (a fascination shared by the artists). Sugimoto’s photographs of Peaucellier’s Inversor and Hart’s Inversor—mechanical devices for showing how rotary motion can be converted into linear motion—are depictions of sculptures, in a sense. The original artifacts typically look like contraptions, but Sugimoto obscures that resemblance in the way he shoots the photographs, which restore their source material, functioning as abstractions of concrete models.

Sugimoto’s sculptures, meanwhile, are closer in concept to the physical models. For example, Surface of Revolution with Constant Negative Curvature (Mathematical Model 009), 2006, is precisely what it claims to be: A cone rising asymptotically from a sizeable mirrored base to a point over the viewer’s head. The equations that inform the titles to all three sculptures are bound to escape most viewers: no matter. The concepts of infinity, of singularity, of horizonlessness—of the possibility of finding truth in the laws of nature—are as achingly beautiful in Sugimoto’s steely curves as they are in his photographs of the sea.