02
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 23rd September 2012

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Installation view of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

 

To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.

.
“Art Byting the Dust” Tony Fry 1990 1

 

 

They said that photography would be the death of painting. It never happened. Recently they thought that digital photography would be the death of analogue photography. It hasn’t happened for there are people who care enough about analogue photography to keep it going, no matter what. As the quotation astutely observes, the digital age has changed the conditions of production updating the techniques of montage and collage for the 21st century. Now through assemblage the composition may be prefigured but that does not mean that there are not echoes, traces and deposits of other technologies, other processes that are not evidenced in contemporary photography.

As photography influenced painting when it first appeared and vice versa (photography went through a period known as Pictorialism where where it imitated Impressionist painting), this exhibition highlights the influence of painting on later photography. Whatever process it takes photography has always been about painting with light – through a pinhole, through a microscope, through a camera lens; using light directly onto photographic paper, using the light of the scanner or the computer screen. As Paul Virilio observes, no longer is there a horizon line but the horizon square of the computer screen, still a picture plane that evidences the history of art and life. Vestiges of time and technology are somehow always present not matter what medium an artist chooses. They always have a complex afterlife and afterimage.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. I really don’t think it is a decomposition, more like a re/composition or reanimation.
PPS. Notice how Otto Steinert’s Luminogramm (1952, below), is eerily similar to some of Pierre Soulages paintings.

 

  1. Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp. 169-170

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Many thankx to the Städel Musuem for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Installation view of the exhibition 'Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation' at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Installation views of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Ein-Fuß-Gänger' 1950

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 39cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' c. 1923-25

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photogram
c. 1923-25
Unique photogram, toned printing-out paper
12.6 x 17.6 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) '10-80-C-17 (NYC)' 1980

 

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008)
10-80-C-17 (NYC)
1980
From the series: In + Out of City Limits: New York / Boston
Gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
58 x 73cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Substrat 10' 2002

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Substrat 10
2002
C-type print
186 x 238cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) 'Sam Eric, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968) 'paper drop (window)' 2006

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
paper drop (window)
2006
C-type print in artists frame
145 x 200cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978) 'Luminogramm' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogramm
1952
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1952
41.5 x 60cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

From 27 June to 23 September 2012, the Städel Museum will show the exhibition “Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation.” The comprehensive presentation will highlight the influence of painting on the imagery produced by contemporary photographic art. Based on the museum’s own collection and including important loans from the DZ Bank Kunstsammlung as well as international private collections and galleries, the exhibition at the Städel will centre on about 60 examples, among them major works by László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, and Amelie von Wulffen. Whereas the influence of the medium of photography on the “classic genres of art” has already been the subject of analysis in numerous exhibitions and publications, less attention has been paid to the impact of painting on contemporary photography to date. The show at the Städel explores the reflection of painting in the photographic image by pursuing various artistic strategies of appropriation which have one thing in common: they reject the general expectation held about photography that it will document reality in an authentic way.

The key significance of photography within contemporary art and its incorporation into the collection of the Städel Museum offer an occasion to fathom the relationship between painting and photography in an exhibition. While painting dealt with the use of photography in the mass media in the 1960s, today’s photographic art shows itself seriously concerned with the conditions of painting. Again and again, photography reflects, thematises, or represents the traditional pictorial medium, maintaining an ambivalent relationship between appropriation and detachment.

Numerous works presented in the Städel’s exhibition return to the painterly abstractions of the prewar and postwar avant-gardes, translate them into the medium of photography, and thus avoid a reproduction of reality. Early examples for the adaption of techniques of painting in photography are László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) photograms dating from the 1920s. For his photographs shot without a camera, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher arranged objects on a sensitised paper; these objects left concrete marks as supposedly abstract forms under the influence of direct sunlight. In Otto Steinert’s (1915-1978) nonrepresentational light drawings or “luminigrams,” the photographer’s movement inscribed itself directly into the sensitised film. The pictures correlate with the gestural painting of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. A product of random operations during the exposure and development of the photographic paper, Wolfgang Tillmans’ (*1968) work “Freischwimmer 54” (2004) is equally far from representing the external world. It is the pictures’ fictitious depth, transparency, and dynamics that lend Thomas Ruff’s photographic series “Substrat” its extraordinary painterly quality recalling colour field paintings or Informel works. For his series “Seascapes” the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) seems to have “emptied” the motif through a long exposure time: the sublime pictures of the surface of the sea and the sky – which either blur or are set off against each other – seem to transcend time and space.

In addition to the photographs mentioned, the exhibition “Painting in Photography” includes works by artists who directly draw on the history of painting in their choice of motifs. The mise-en-scène piece “Picture for Women” (1979) by the Canadian photo artist Jeff Wall (born in 1946), which relates to Édouard Manet’s famous painting “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère” from 1882, may be cited as an example for this approach. The camera positioned in the centre of the picture reveals the mirrored scene and turns into the eye of the beholder. The fictitious landscape pictures by Beate Gütschow (born in 1970), which consist of digitally assembled fragments, recall ideal Arcadian sceneries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The photographs taken by Italian Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) in the studio of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) “copy” Morandi’s still lifes by representing the real objects in the painter’s studio instead of his paintings.

Another appropriative strategy sees the artist actually becoming active as a painter, transforming either the object he has photographed or its photographic representation. Oliver Boberg’s, Richard Hamilton’s, Georges Rousse’s and Amelie von Wulffen’s works rank in this category. For her series “Stadtcollagen” (1998-1999) Amelie von Wulffen (born in 1966) assembled drawing, photography, and painting to arrive at the montage of a new reality. The artist’s recollections merge with imaginary spaces offering the viewer’s fantasy an opportunity for his or her own associations.

The exhibition also encompasses positions of photography for which painting is the object represented in the picture. The most prominent examples in this section come from Sherrie Levine (born in 1947) and Louise Lawler (born in 1947), both representatives of US Appropriation Art. From the late 1970s on, Levine and Lawler have photographically appropriated originals from art history. Levine uses reproductions of paintings from a catalogue published in the 1920s: she photographs them and makes lithographs of her pictures. Lawler photographs works of art in private rooms, museums, and galleries and thus rather elucidates the works’ artworld context than the works as such.

Press release from the Städel Museum website

 

Sherrie Levine (b. 1947) 'After Edgar Degas' 1987 (detail)

 

Sherrie Levine (American, b. 1947)
After Edgar Degas (detail)
1987
5 lithographs on hand-made paper
69 x 56cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Frankfurt
© Sherrie Levine / Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947) 'It Could Be Elvis' 1994

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
It Could Be Elvis
1994
Cibachrome, varnished with shellac
74.5 x 91cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

Oliver Boberg (German, b. 1965) 'Unterführung' [Underpass] 1997

 

Oliver Boberg (German, b. 1965)
Unterführung [Underpass]
1997
C-type print
75 x 84cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© Oliver Boberg / Courtesy L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

 

Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) 'Eight-Self-Portraits' 1994 (detail)

 

Richard Hamilton (English, 1922-2011)
Eight-Self-Portraits (detail)
1994
Thermal dye sublimation prints
40 x 35cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968) 'Freischwimmer 54' 2004

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
Freischwimmer 54
2004
C-type in artists frame
237 x 181 x 6cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Städel Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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