07
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Candida Höfer: A Return to Italy’ at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 12th April 2013

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Ah symmetry, that vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance, that patterned self-similarity that, through Hofer’s large format photographs, reflects the vainglorius human edifices of Northern Italy, superbly beautiful in their empty pride. Customarily devoid of human presence, Hofer’s photographs are technically and aesthetically superb. One has to examine the photographs with respect to their relationship to the passage of time, utilising spatial awareness to try to understand why things exist in specific locations within human culture.

“Both in ancient and modern times, the ability of a large structure to impress or even intimidate its viewers has often been a major part of its purpose, and the use of symmetry is an inescapable aspect of how to accomplish such goals.” (Wikipedia) Symmetries are informative of the world around us, and peer relationships are based on symmetry sending the message “we are all the same.” So Hofer’s symmetrical photographs possess opposing messages: we are all the same but some of us are more important (read powerful) than others.

Hofer’s highly symmetrical rooms are unavoidably also rooms in which anything out of place or potentially threatening can be identified easily and quickly, which has implications for safety, security, and familiarity. In this case it is the absence of human presence. To me this is the critical reading of Hofer’s photographs: they comment on the foibles of the human race, a race nearing the destruction of its only place of habitation, reaching the tipping point on the path to annihilation, yet indulging itself in a continuing race of construction and consumption. There will come a point when these edifices are crumbling and in ruins, as an Ebola-like virus races airborne around the world, destroying 90 percent of the population of the earth within months. The Earth will self balance and all we will be left with will be the memory of an empty symmetry.

Symmetry can be a source of comfort not only as an indicator of biological health, but also of a safe and well-understood living environment. The paradox of Hofer’s environments is that in these colourful, exuberant, profusive environments nothing is alive, the interiors becoming meaningless “noise” in an empty, vacuous world. The human race will have left the building.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Ben Brown Fine Arts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Candida Höfer. 'Galleria Degli Antichi Sabbioneta' I 2010

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Candida Höfer
Galleria Degli Antichi Sabbioneta I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 220.7 cm (70 7/8 x 86 7/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova I' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Palazzo Ducale Mantova I 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 246 cm (70 7/8 x 96 7/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Comunale di Carpi I' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Teatro Comunale di Carpi I 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 237 cm; (70 7/8 x 93 1/4 in.)
Edition of 6 © 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Teatro La Fenice di Venezia III' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Teatro La Fenice di Venezia III 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 242 cm (70 7/8 x 95 1/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida-Höfer-Teatro-La-Fenice-Di-Venezia-V-2011-WEB

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Candida Höfer
Teatro La Fenice di Venezia V 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 235 cm (70 7/8 x 92 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II' 2010

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Candida Höfer
Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 235 cm (70 7/8 x 92 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I' 2010

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Candida Höfer
Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 226 cm (70 7/8 x 89 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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“German photographer Candida Höfer makes a significant return to Ben Brown Fine Arts in London on 12 February with a major solo show, unveiling thirteen new and previously unseen photographs which catalogue the architectural treasures of Northern Italy.

Mantova, Vicenza, Sabbioneta, Venice and Carpi provide the glorious setting for this new series shot over the past two years, a continuation of Höfer’s previous work in Central and Southern Italy. The interiors of palaces, opera houses, libraries and theatres, which Höfer captures with incredible skill, are part of her meticulous documentation of public spaces – places of culture, knowledge, communication and exchange with a rich history and clear functionality. Having rarely visited the Northern region, Höfer was particularly touched by the naturalness and ease with which the local people there accepted this extraordinary architecture as a part of their daily lives.

Höfer’s portraits of interiors, customarily devoid of human presence, emphasize the solemn magnificence of the Palazzo Ducale, Teatro La Fenice and Biblioteca Teresiana, amongst others. By featuring spaces that celebrate mankind’s greatness, yet where people are nowhere to be found, Höfer’s images possess an unexpected poignancy which has become the hallmark of her work. Höfer produces these large-format photographs without digital enhancement or alteration, using long exposure and working solely with the existing light source. The effect is a rare combination of intimacy and scale, in which intricate architectural detail is captured without sacrificing the sense of space and civilised order.

Höfer, a member of the Düsseldorf School (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf), was a noted pupil of the Bechers, who were heavily influenced by the 1920s German art tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit and pioneered a type of detached objectivity. The Bechers’ black and white photographs of industrial landscapes and architecture embodied a clinical, documentary style, which Höfer has retained in her work through the same neutral and methodical process. Yet Höfer’s large-scale colour prints differ in their more sympathetic approach to the building’s culture and history.”

Press release from Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Museo Civico Di Palazzo Te Mantova IV' 2010

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Candida Höfer
Museo Civico Di Palazzo Te Mantova IV 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 187 cm; (70 7/8 x 73 5/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Olimpico Vicenza III' 2010

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Candida Höfer
Teatro Olimpico Vicenza III 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 144 cm (70 7/8 x 56 3/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Biblioteca Teresiana Mantova I' 2010

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Candida Höfer
Biblioteca Teresiana Mantova I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 163 cm (70 7/8 x 64 1/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova III' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Palazzo Ducale Mantova III 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 169 cm; (70 7/8 x 66 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova V' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Palazzo Ducale Mantova V 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 176 cm (70 7/8 x 69 1/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova IV' 2011

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Candida Höfer
Palazzo Ducale Mantova IV 2011
2011
LightJet print
Edition of 6
180 x 176 cm (70 7/8 x 67 3/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

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Ben Brown Fine Arts
12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG
T: +44 (0)20 7734 8888

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturdays 10.30am – 2.30pm

Ben Brown Fine Arts website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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