Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Struth

12
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Struth: Figure Ground’ at Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 17th September 2017

Curator: Thomas Weski

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Crosby Street, Soho, New York' 1978

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Crosby Street, Soho, New York
1978
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris' 1979

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris
1979
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

 

I have always liked this man’s work. His understanding of space, colour, form and photograph as aesthetic experience is sublime. His muscular compositions show evidence of clear thinking and seeing… an investigation into sachlichkeit, that is objectivity: the boundaries between human, animal and machine (the aesthetics of innovation).

And yet Struth’s “unheroic” images also show evidence of subjective forces at work: impulsion, chaos, and serendipity to name a few, capturing a ‘razzmatazz of sensations’ that challenge the existential nature of the human, ‘being’.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Most of the images are very unheroic. I have a strong relationship to clarity. That’s why my compositions and choices are very meticulous.”

.
Thomas Struth

 

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 1, London' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 1, London
1989
Chromogenic print
180.0 x 196.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Louvre 4 Paris (1989) centre left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Louvre 4 Paris' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Louvre 4, Paris
1989
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo
1991
Chromogenic print
105.5 x 126.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Paradise 26 (Bougainville), Palpa, Peru (2003) to the right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Bright sunflower - No. 1, Winterthur' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Bright sunflower – No. 1, Winterthur
1991
Chromogenic print
84.0 x 66.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

 

This major exhibition by the pioneering German photographer Thomas Struth (born 1954) presents the most comprehensive survey of his genre-defining oeuvre. Covering four decades of work and every phase of his illustrious artistic career, the exhibition focuses especially on the aspect of Struth’s social interests which represent the important forces of his internationally influential artistic development. Starting with his first series Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places) published in 1987 through his current works that deal with the field of research and technology in the globalised world, Struth’s work develops its own specific analytical nature through his choice of subject matter, the manner of its photographic realisation and its modes of presentation. These aspirations are manifested in questioning the relevance of public space and transformation of cities, the cohesive factor of family solidarity, the importance of the relationship between nature and culture, and exploring the limits and possibilities of new technologies. The momentum of participation further characterises these aspirations, as Struth’s extensive pictorial inventions and strategies allow individual interpretation based on collective knowledge.

In this exhibition, early works and research materials related to the artist’s subject matter, and collected over several decades, are shown for the first time in the context of an exhibition, offering access and insight into Struth’s working methods. Together with the photographs, these materials elucidate his longstanding interests behind the different series, demonstrating the process of artistic translation before the perfection of the image.

Featuring around 130 works, two multichannel video installations, and a selection of archival material, the exhibition in Haus der Kunst is the largest survey of Struth’s artistic career to date. The survey links his early ideas to well-known series such as Straßen (Streets), Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places), Portraits, Museumsbilder (Museum Pictures), Paradise, and Audiences which are placed in dialogue with site-specific works like Löwenzahnzimmer (Dandelion Room), the landscape- and flower photographs that were made for the patients’ rooms at the Hospital on the Lindberg in Winterthur, Switzerland. It also includes photographs recently shown in the exhibition Nature & Politics. Within this interplay, the exciting ability of the artist to combine analysis and individual pictorial invention in multifaceted works and techniques builds an overarching idea on how to deal with the elementary matters of our times.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication from Schirmer / Mosel Publishers, Munich, designed by Fernando Gutierrez, with texts by Thomas Weski, Ulrich Wilmes, Jana-Maria Hartmann, and an interview with the artist by Okwui Enwezor. The exhibition is organised by Haus der Kunst and curated by Thomas Weski.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai' 1997

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai
1997
Chromogenic print
117.5 x 143.6 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China
1999
Chromogenic print
182.0 x 227.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Self-Portrait, Munich' 2000

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Self-Portrait, Munich
2000
© Thomas Struth

 

“Albrecht Durer painted his self-portrait in 1500, so Struth’s Self-Portrait, Munich 2000 feels like a conversation between artists across 500 years.”

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 2, London' 2001

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 2, London
2001
Chromogenic print
148.0 x 170.4 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 7, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 7, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 11, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 11, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island (2007) at centre
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island' 2007

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island
2007
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching (2009) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2009
Chromogenic print
109.3 x 85.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Har Homa, East Jerusalem' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Har Homa, East Jerusalem
2009
Inkjet print
148.6 x 184.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with The Faez Family, Rehovot (2009) second left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'The Faez Family, Rehovot' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
The Faez Family, Rehovot
2009
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

 

Take, for instance, Struth’s photograph “Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh” (2010). Ostensibly a photograph of a chemistry fume cabinet at the University of Edinburgh, photographed through a clear, glass window, the work is also a study in colour and form. Within a white background space, the back wall has black horizontal lines running along it, while the side walls have one vertical line each. These opposing lines create what appear to be a haphazard grid. A wide red horizontal structure runs across the front of the room, creating one more line that both breaks up and contributes to the grid. Various machines within the room, two square red panels on the left and right sides of the window, and six coloured balloons provide a series of objects that fit within the finely structured container of the photograph’s frame.

What struck me immediately upon seeing this image was how the various lines and objects interact with one another. Struth presents the viewer with a kind of interactive field in which she can either read the image “as is” – photograph documenting a chemistry fume cabinet – or as a purely aesthetic experience. Or, of course, she can do both, which is what makes Struth’s work so rich and gratifying. It is in the way his mastery of colour and other formal elements coincides with his documentation of the world.

Cynthia Cruz. “Seeing the Deterioration of Technology in Thomas Struth’s Photographs,” on the Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 05/08/2017

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle (2010) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia (2013) at right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia' 2013

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia
2013
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Schaltwerk 1 Berlin' 2016

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Schaltwerk 1, Berlin
2016
© Thomas Struth

 

 

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13
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th April to 13th August 2017

Curator: Dr Martin Engler, Head of the Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum
Co-curator: Dr Jana Baumann, Städel Museum

Artists: Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich

 

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet' 1963

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Gutehoffnungshütte, Oberhausen, Ruhrgebiet
1963
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
75.3 x 91.4 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

The Bechers depict the half-timbered houses from the Siegerland in a sober and restrained fashion. The picture removes the buildings from their original context. One view follows the next. Thus the form of the single building becomes more important than its function. In the photographs the half-timbered houses become aesthetic objects with a sculptural character. Bernd and Hilla Becher do not present their images individually, but in a grid. Not the single photo is the work, but the total of the typology is.

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) 'Half-Timber Houses' (detail) 1959-61/1974

 

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015)
Half-Timber Houses (detail)
1959-61/1974
Silver gelatine print on baryta paper
152.4 x 112.5 cm
Sammlung Deutsche Bank
© Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

 

“What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.” (Press release)

WHAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH – the second sentence, that is!

Just look at the photographs as pictures.

The Bechers and their students’ photographs might invoke a new concept of the pictorial but that does not mean the death of photography far from it. In fact, this conceptualisation opens up an expanded terrain of becoming for photography (continuing the theme of the last post on the work of Walker Evans). In this sense, the work of these artists is vital to an understanding of the place of photography within the observation, construction and taxonomy of contemporary culture and its pictorial representation.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For more information please see the interactive website.

 

One of the most radical changes in art’s relation to its aesthetic, media, and economic contexts is closely associated with the students of the first Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy – but even more so with the names of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher. The exhibition brings together 200 major works, some in large format, by these important artists, as well as a selection of their early works.

 

 

Candida Höfer (*1944) 'Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977' 1977 (2013)

 

Candida Höfer (*1944)
Weidengasse Cologne VIII 1977
1977 (2013)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
42.6 x 36.7 cm
Loan from the artist
© Candida Höfer, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Volker Döhne (*1953) 'Untitled (Colourful)' 1979 (2014)

 

Volker Döhne (*1953)
Untitled (Colourful)
1979 (2014)
Colour print from colour transparency
37 x 47 cm
Private collection
© Volker Döhne, Krefeld 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958) 'Interior 1 D' 1982

 

Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Interior 1 D
1982
Chromogenic colour print
47 x 57 cm
Loan from the artist
© Thomas Ruff; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955) 'Doorman, Passport Control' 1982 (2007)

 

Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Doorman, Passport Control
1982 (2007)
Inkjet print
43.2 x 52.5 cm
Loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers
© Andreas Gursky / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 / Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Moedling House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Moedling House
1982-1984
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan from the artist
© Axel Hütte

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954) 'Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy' 1989

 

Petra Wunderlich (*1954)
Fossa Degli Angeli, Italy
1989
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
61 x 75,2 cm
Private collection
© Petra Wunderlich; VG Bild-Kunst 2017

 

 

From 27 April to 13 August 2017, the Städel Museum is staging a comprehensive survey on the Becher Class at the Düsseldorf art academy and the major paradigm shift in the medium of artistic photography with which the Bechers and their students are associated. With the aid of some 200 photographs by Volker Döhne, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, Thomas Struth and Petra Wunderlich – a group of whom some enjoy international renown and others are due for rediscovery – the exhibition will examine the influence exerted by Bernd and Hilla Becher on their students at the Düsseldorf school. What unites the students’ works with those of their teachers? How do they differ? Is there really such a thing as the “Becher School” or is it ‘merely’ a matter of several highly successful photographers who happened to be studying at the ‘right place’ at an especially propitious moment in history? And how have those artists influenced our present conception of what a picture is? Taking the artist duo’s work as a point of departure, the exhibition “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class” will acquaint viewers with the radical changes in the medium of artistic photography that became manifest in the works of the Becher pupils in the eighties and above all the nineties, and investigate the art-historical impact of this development up to the very present. It will feature major large-scale works as well as key early endeavours by the members of what is presumably the most influential generation of German photographers in the field of fine art.

The students of the first in a long line of Becher Classes at the Düsseldorfer art academy introduced elementary changes to contemporary art’s aesthetic, media and economic contexts. They not only contributed decisively to shaping international photography in the 1990s, but also fundamentally redefined the status and perception of artistic photography in general. Their works can be considered as one of the most self-confident emancipations of photography as art in the mediums history, while at the same time reflecting the (not merely digital) moment when the boundaries between the media dissolve.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher’s first – meanwhile world-famous – students played a tremendously important role in establishing photography as an expressive medium on a par with other art forms. The nine artists featured in our show occupy a realm where the distinction between painting and photography is no longer clear. The permeability of the boundary between the media is deliberate in their work, and in that respect they mirror one of the key focuses of the Städel Museum’s collection of contemporary art,” observes Städel director Dr Philipp Demandt. And exhibition curator Dr Martin Engler adds: “What the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher sparked off – and their students developed further – is a new conception of the artwork according to which the boundaries between sculpture, painting and photography dissolve in terms of media and aesthetics alike. In other words, in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.”

The founding of a chair for artistic photography at the Düsseldorf art academy in 1976 provided perhaps the single most important impulse for a change in how the medium of photography was perceived. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla Becher, Bernd Becher held that chair until 1996. Even before their appointment to the Düsseldorf school, the Bechers had been taking pictures of historical industrial architecture, subscribing to a work concept that exceeded the scope of a common documentary approach in photography. They portrayed mining headframes, blast furnaces, gas tanks, water towers and other testimonies to a vanishing industrial culture – frontally, in central perspective, with fascinating depth of field, and where possible before the backdrop of a uniformly grey sky. They arranged the individual shots in grids to form large-scale tableaus they called typologies. The concern here was no longer merely the illustration of reality, but its perception. Reality could no longer be depicted singly, but only in a multiplicity of simultaneous images. From the formal aesthetic point of view, the staging of the pictorial subjects was now far more than documentary in nature. The affinity to minimal and concept art – evident in the rigour of the pictorial vocabulary, the industrial aesthetic and the new perception of a work in stages – is unmistakable.

Especially in their early work, the students of the first Becher Class explored their teachers’ artistic strategy with great intensity. Yet as they continued to pursue it in the nineties, they did so ever more independently, and in their own highly individual styles. With the aid of various strategies in terms of scale, presentation and motif, and not least of all with abstract pictorial inventions provoked by digital image techniques, they took the interpenetration of the mediums of painting and photography to an extreme. The result was a new concept of the picture that blurs aesthetic and media distinctions. “The dissolution of media boundaries, but also the use of technical innovations, are characteristic of the works of the first Becher Class. It is here that the impact of a changing media culture is felt,” explains Dr Jana Baumann, the co-curator of the exhibition.

A show devoted to such a complex phenomenon on the one hand, and such productive teaching activities on the other, must inevitably be limited in scope. “Photographs Become Pictures” concentrates deliberately on the students of the early years of the Becher Class, beginning with Höfer, Döhne, Hütte and Struth in 1976 and ending with the completion of Gursky’s and Sasse’s studies in 1987/1988. In retrospect, it is precisely in the heterogeneity of the first Becher Class – with its wide range of approaches that have influenced our present-day understanding of the pictorial image – that the success of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s teachings is evident.

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) is known above all for her pictures of public interiors such as libraries, universities, museums and waiting rooms. Nevertheless, the purely documentary aspect is ultimately of secondary importance to her, as is also true of her teachers. Particularly when she turned to colour photography, she began producing iconically clear shots of meaning-charged interiors extremely striking in their rigorous aesthetic. In composition, repetition and rhythm as well as the sculptural emphasis, Höfer’s formal staging of her interiors is reminiscent of the Becher typologies.

A distinct affinity to the typologies is also evident in early street shots by Thomas Struth (b. 1954), such as West Broadway, Tribeca, New York (1978) or Sommerstrasse, Düsseldorf (1980). He proceeded in a manner similar to his teachers, but broadened his spectrum of motifs. He is concerned in his work with cultural structures; in addition to streets he also depicts museums or religious cult sites and portrays families. With the aid of social and ethnological allusions he reveals orders and interrelationships, thus achieving a universal survey of human and their lifeworld in imagery.

Petra Wunderlich‘s (b. 1954) black-and-white series depict details of churches or quarries that the artist has introduced to a new, abstract compositional framework. By this method she reduces architecture visually to its stereometric tectonics in such a way that elementary architectonic forms unexpectedly emerge from the “broken” surfaces of nature. Wunderlich’s photographs, like those by the Bechers, can be read as sociological and historical testimonies.

The workgroups of Volker Döhne (b. 1953) closely resemble Bernd and Hilla Bechers’ typologies with regard to concept and motif alike. He developed series such as Small- Scale Iron Industry (1977/78) or Small Railway Bridges and Underpasses in the Bergisches and Märkisches Land (1979). With his experimental Colour (1979) series, he then emancipated himself from his teachers.

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) was interested primarily in factory gates, shop windows, beverage kiosks and snack bars, which she photographed in the even light of grey days. Many aspects of these works are strongly reminiscent of the Becher photographs: the consistent placement of the subject at the pictorial centre, the unchanging size of the prints, but also the serial, typologically comparative approach.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is likewise deeply indebted to his teachers’ serial method, which we encounter in his work in ever-different formulations. His portraits as well as the strongly enlarged nocturnal shots of, in part, found material, convey his fundamentally sceptical attitude towards photography’s claim to truth and documentation. His persistent investigations of new pictorial sources and technologies are perhaps the most impressive demonstrations of the manner in which Ruff continues the approach of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Axel Hütte‘s (b. 1951) early architectural details investigate social situations using a mode of photographic expression distinguished by distance and anonymity. Within this context, he devotes himself as much to spoiled landscapes as to supposedly untouched nature which nevertheless has always been formed by human intervention. A conspicuous aspect of his work is the strong reference to historical landscape painting, whose formal compositional principles he both copies and deconstructs. Whereas the Bechers directed their attention to the sculptural or conceptual potential of their pictures, Hütte focusses on painting as the leading medium of modern art.

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) initially devoted himself to highly artificial and at the same time prosaic arrangements of petit-bourgeois domestic culture. His later “tableaus” represent a virtual antithesis to the reductive rigour of these early works. Using digital and analogue techniques alike, he began processing found pictures as well as images of his own making, in which context he blurred the distinction between painting and photograph beyond recognition.

Andreas Gursky‘s (b. 1955) early photographs are likewise characterised by a keen interest in everyday surroundings – the private as well as the public sphere, the context of work as well as leisure time. Like Sasse, he investigates the aesthetic boundary between photographic and painterly image production. By means of digital manipulations he uses to duplicate and mount the pictorial motif to the point of abstraction, he creates perplexing pictorial architectures that merge construction and reality in large-scale colour prints.

The development of the Becher Class shows how concept art’s expanding notion of the artwork led to a new concept of the pictorial including photography. What the teachers introduced in rudiments was taken by their students and the following generation of artists to a momentous change in the picturing of reality. The realisation that photography cannot reproduce reality impartially does not detract from the medium. On the contrary, it means an enhancement in terms of artistic potential. What is more, the lack of focus in the portrayal of reality – in the literal and figurative sense alike – enriches photography’s complexity. It is not least of digital changes that enables innovative pictorial invention. Yet the boundaries of the photographic image also became fluid in the development from individual work to typology and series, and from detail to overall image. The answer to all questions about the significance, classification, doctrine and conception of what we refer to as the “Becher School” can thus be found in an insight as simple as it is surprising: in the very moment in history when photography emancipated itself to become an independent medium, it sounded its own death knell.

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

At left, Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail) 1988 (2003)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Candida Höfer (left) and Thomas Struth (*1954) Louvre 3, Paris 1989 1989 (2012) (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) Paradiese 09 Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Paradiese 09' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Paradiese 09
Xi Shuang Banna, Provinz Yunnan, China, 1999

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) with House No. 1 I 1987 (right)

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Axel Hütte (*1951)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951) 'Castellina' 1992 (2015)

 

Axel Hütte (*1951)
Castellina
1992 (2015)
Chromogenic colour print
98.4 x 120.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung © Axel Hütte

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Thomas Struth (*1954) The Consolandi Family, Mailand, 1996 (2014) (left)

 

Exhibition views “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

 

The Bechers

For their photographs Bernd and Hilla Becher are awarded the “Golden Lion” in the category of “sculpture” at the Venice Biennale in 1990. How is that possible? Surprisingly at the time there was no separate category for photography at the Biennale. But this is not the real reason. Already in 1969 the first larger exhibition of the Bechers is called “Anonymous Sculptures”, just like their first volume of photographs. The artists very consciously link the genres of photography and sculpture. This idea informs their entire oeuvre.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Wobeser begin to collaborate in 1959. At the time both study at the art academy Düsseldorf. Two years later they marry. During the following five decades the artist couple produces mostly tableaus of several parts – consisting of three, nine, twelve or more photos; they call them typologies. Their subjects are disused headstocks, furnaces, oil refineries, water reservoir towers, grain silos, gasometres or even half-timbered houses in former workers’ settlements – all of them testimonies of a declining industrial culture.

 

An Overall Concept

When Hilla and Bernd Becher presented their works at the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1969, this coincided with an exhibition on US-American minimal art – a juxtaposition that was to prove programmatic. In 1972 the American sculptor Carl Andre mentioned the insightful connection of the Bechers’ works and the movements of minimal and conceptual art. This prominent, art-theoretical connection significantly contributed to the great international success of the Bechers. This is also why – especially in the USA – the two are considered concept artists more than photographers.

The Bechers’ method of working – ostensibly – is concerned with sobriety and anonymity, rigidity and objectivity. They work in series, where the whole and a part of this whole, total view and detail are balanced. Setting their photographs into the context of sculpture, they test the boundaries of the genres of photography and sculpture. Working and presenting their works in series, they move the photograph beyond the individual work: the viewer can never see everything at once; instead the eye oscillates between detail and general context.

The artist couple directs the attention to formal, creative aspects of the photographed edifices at the same time allowing them to disappear in the typology’s grid. The rigidity of their pictorial vocabulary and the interest in an industrial aesthetic evidences the close proximity of the Bechers’ creative work to minimal and concept art.

 

Photography in Germany

“In principle it [photography] was a fallow field, where nothing ‘noteworthy’ had taken place in the past fifty years. We saw us in the tradition of objective photography of the 1920s; Bernd and Hilla Becher were the first to reconnect to this. There was absolutely nothing that we could fight or needed to disengage with. We could start from scratch.” ~ Thomas Ruff

 

“New Objectivity” this was the motto of the 1920s – also in photography. It was no longer the pictorial language of painting, but precision, focus and truth to detail, characteristics of photography that had garnered the artists’ interest.

The photographer August Sander focused on the society of the Weimar Republic and created a typology: in 1925 his pictorial atlas People of the 20th Century, where he systematically assembled hundreds of portraits of stereotypes of people of the most diverse social backgrounds and occupations. All of his sitters are portrayed frontally, which makes the photographs comparable. Sander also engaged in the photography of landscapes, industrial sites and cities.

Two more representatives of the photography of New Objectivity are also worth mentioning here: Albert Renger-Patzsch recorded industrial buildings and machinery in a sober directness. Karl Blossfeldt adopted scientific standards and photographed plants – always before a neutral background, removed from their natural setting.

Bernd and Hilla Becher draw on these approaches and develop them in their works. With a few exemptions, photography was not considered an autonomous artistic medium in Germany. Still in the 1960s, photography in art predominantly served as a means of documentation of actions, happenings and performances. Yet painting and photography interact. The painter Gerhard Richter for example, used photos as templates for his paintings since the early 1960s. The Bechers in turn greatly contributed to the recognition of photography as autonomous artistic medium with their photographs.

 

The Becher Class: Adoption, Distinction

DÖHNE GURSKY HÖFER HÜTTE RONKHOLZ RUFF SASSE STRUTH WUNDERLICH

These are the students of the first Becher class. In 1976 Bernd Becher is appointed first professor for photography at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In close cooperation with his wife Hilla he teaches there for twenty years. Their first students become artists, who will have a formative influence on photography in the 1980s and the 1990s internationally. The Becher students intensely study their teachers’ work. Especially in their early works comparable approaches develop: a distanced perspective, an interest in architecture and striving for technical precision.

The Bechers are preoccupied with an industrial architecture in decline, representative also of the social changes affecting the respective region. Taking this as a starting point, their students consider their direct surroundings and social contexts. They seek to identify systems of classification and in their photographs investigate the relationship of individual work and series. In the process the Becher students adopt their own positions. They discover new themes, techniques and creative strategies. Regardless of the distinctions they are indebted to the conceptual approach of their teachers, which they then developed in their individual ways.

In their teaching and their work Bernd and Hilla Becher explore a concept of the image, where medial and aesthetic distinctions of sculpture, painting and photography dissolve. Their students continue this work in very different ways. In the 1980s and 1990s their enquiries lead to a critical reflexion of the possibilities of representing reality. The lack of focus in the depiction of reality – literally and figuratively – represent an increase in artistic complexity. Innovative pictorial creations were now possible by way of digital intervention.

The borders of the photographic image blur at the stage between single work and typology and series. The alternation of perception, oscillating between detail and total image extend the possibilities of photography. The meaning of what is called “Becher school” can be summarised in a simple and surprising statement: at the historic moment, when photography becomes an independent medium, it also realises its potential and explores its limits. Photography reaches its limits, transgresses it and thus ultimately questions its existence.

 

Kiosks and Streets

The developments in American photography are also important to the Becher-students: Ed Ruscha, whose photos show everyday subjects, is one of their role models. In 1966 he creates Every Building on the Sunset Strip. With a simple handheld camera Ruscha photographs every building on the Los Angeles boulevard of that name; he presents his pictures in a fanfold or an artist’s book. This quickly reveals the serial principle behind the work. Volker Döhne’s approach in Reconstruction II is similar. He, too, documents the commercial architecture, largely determining the surrounding.

Ice cream parlour, garage, drug store, stationers, dwelling house, shoe shop – nicely aligned. Volker Döhne focuses on the urban space dominated by nondescript post war architecture and empty sites. Other than his American colleague Ed Ruscha, Döhne always positions his camera head-on in the same angle. Surprisingly this emphasises the buildings’ volume. Like his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher he emphasises the three-dimensional, sculptural aspect of buildings and pursues a concept that he determined before he began to photograph.

The Bechers assemble identical, yet different photographs to a static tableau. Döhne on the other hand, required the viewer to move along the strip and proceed down the row of photographs. Above all the viewer must add together the photos of the Krefelder Straße by himself: the work forms as a result of the viewer’s active viewing and perception.

 

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Ostwall corner Rheinstraße, (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 82 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 84 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 86 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953) 'Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)' 1990 (1992)

 

Volker Döhne (b. 1953)
Krefeld, Rheinstraße 88 (Reconstruction II)
1990 (1992)
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
47 × 37 cm
Private collection

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Beverage kiosk, Düsseldorf, Hermannstraße 31
1978
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
41.2 x 51.2 cm
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln/Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn
© Tata Ronkholz, Nachlassverwaltung Van Ham Art Estate 2017

 

 

Cigarette and gumball machines are fixed to exterior walls. Advertising posters overlap. Beverages, magazines and sweets are visibly lined up behind glass. It is Tata Ronkholz’ serial presentation that enables the comparison of the kiosks and their study as a social phenomenon in urban contexts.

Kiosks are everyday meeting points and the setting for social life. At the same time their role fundamentally changed in the past decades. Ronkholz photographs kiosks as socially grown places. She positions them centrally in their architectural environment – people are absent. This is what the photos have in common with Becher-photographs. Like her teachers, Ronkholz is committed to the conservation and archiving of a changing urban culture.

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107' 1977

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Dusseldorf, Sankt-Franziskusstraße 107
1977
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Without title' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Without title
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Foundation Culture, Cologne / Dauerleihgabe der Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997) 'Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85' 1978

 

Tata Ronkholz (1940-1997)
Düsseldorf, Germany, Konkordiastraße 85
1978
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
41.2 × 51.2 cm
Courtesy The Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne / Permanent Loan of the Sparkasse KölnBonn

 

 

PICTURE PARALLELS

Bernd and Hilla Bechers students are linked to the work of their teachers in many ways. And yet they devote themselves, in part, to new motifs, subjects, and picture formats during their studies. In addition to architecture, they also photograph interiors, simple everyday objects or people.

In the early 1980s the Becher-students Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff turn to portrait photography practically at the same time. They capture their models with neutral facial expressions, generally head-on before a monochrome background. The extreme setting makes the individual recede while the surface of the background dominates. In the series the single faces turn into an interchangeable motif somewhere between person and typology.

 

From Near and Far

The directions of the persons’ gazes differs. Nothing distracts from their faces. The neutral background and the close details are reminiscent of giant passport photographs. One almost overlooks that some of the sitters are famous artists today.

Axel Hütte’s portraits with their conscious play with blurring and sharpness are irritating: some areas in the photo show up the slightest detail, while others are slightly blurred – a conscious reference to the Bechers’ works, characterised by their extreme depth of focus. When observing Hütte’s works from close-up the face becomes a surface of structures. If one wants to see it in focus, one needs to distance oneself. Thus the viewer is kept at bay and always in motion.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) '15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner)' (detail) 1988 (2003)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
15 artists USA (David McDermott, Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, Peter McGough, David McDermott, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Ross Bleckner) (detail)
1988 (2003)
Silver gelatin print on baryta paper
113 x 91 each cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

PICTURES GENERATION

Thomas Ruff explores the gap between reality and image. This is something he shares with the American artists of the so-called “Pictures Generation” from the 1970s and 1980s. This informal group of artists, among them Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Richard Prince, grew up with a flood of pictures in cinema, television and the print media. Their works show distrust for the media, as well as a fascination with it. The artists make use of existing images from film, advertising and art. They copy, quote and redesign this material – more subtly than the artists from American Pop Art in the 1960s. Instead of working with found images in print, collage or painting, the artists of the “Pictures Generation” make small interventions. By introducing minor changes or by producing a practically identical copy of an image they very consciously play with conventional ways of perception. In their works they draw attention to mechanisms of picture production and the methods of artificial construction of reality through pictures.

 

Photos of Faces

Like Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff does not believe in an image of human character. He is convinced that only the exterior reality – the appearance – can be represented. In this sense Ruff’s portraits are photos of faces that resemble expressionless surfaces. The monochrome background hides any hint at a recognisable location.

The face becomes a surface and thus resembles a projection screen for an advertising message. The serial juxtaposition turns the individual in Ruff’s photographs into a type that also represents a particular generation. The stereotypes communicated by mass media and the influence of images on individual and collective opinion-forming are being questioned.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (G. Benzenberg)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Portrait (G. Benzenberg)
1985
Chromogenic colour print
41 × 33 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

“Looks good. Continue in colour.”

The bed, bath and living rooms, the kitchen unit and the furniture of the 1950s and 1970s, Thomas Ruff finds at the homes of relatives and friends in the Black Forest, where he comes from. Bernd and Hilla Becher preferably work in black and white. Ruff on the other hand starts experimenting with colour photography early on during his studies:

“At some point I started, making use of the colour practice, which I […] had developed, in my interiors, and I thought this looked better than in black and white photos. The colleagues said, you cannot do this. Then I also asked Bernd Becher and he said: “Looks good. Continue in colour.”

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Interior 3 A' 1979

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
Interior 3 A
1979
Chromogenic paint removal
45.7 x 39.4 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

A Question of Mise-en-Scène

The two clips on yellow ground look like two flies. The bright background emphasises the form of the represented objects. Their original function becomes secondary. The simple stationary objects become worthy of the photographer’s meticulous attention. Jörg Sasse uses and parodies the strategies of advertising photography, ever concerned with presenting an object as something special.

From the start, Sasse’s work shows a painterly tendency as well as a penchant for abstraction. This is also apparent in a sequence of still lives with reduced colour and shapes. In his early work Sasse is interested in his immediate environment. He seeks to capture the unusual in the everyday. This links his work with the typologies of his teachers. Other than they do, Sasse does not give titles to his works; instead he gives them random numbers. This allows him to remove the represented object even further from its original context without offering a new interpretation.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'ST-84-12-06' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
ST-84-12-06
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
18 × 24 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Kitchen, Bath Room and Living Room

Almost in symmetry Jörg Sasse’s photo shows a light blue jug and a glass jug on two hobs. It belongs to a series, which Sasse dedicated to modest interiors between the post war years and the economic miracle. Sometimes the photos show individual objects, sometimes a combination of two or three objects. They capture details of tiles, furniture or floors.

They give the impression as if the objects were arranged by coincident or as if the inhabitants had left them behind like this. At the same time the scenes appear to be very artificial. Sasse transforms colour, shape and structure of the interior settings into individual, abstract compositions. He focuses on formal contrasts, sequences and similarities. According to the artist it is “not the preoccupation with interiors but with the picture.” The photographer is more interested in the painterly composition than in the representation of reality.

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 'W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf' 1984

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
W-84-02-13, Dusseldorf
1984
Chromogenic paint removal
57.2 × 67.6 cm
Courtesy Gallery Wilma Tolksdorf

 

 

Courtyards and Street Canyons

The artists Axel Hütte and Thomas Struth share an interest in urban non-spaces, indistinct streets or architectures.

In the 1980s modernist residential dwellings like the brutalist, square James Hammett House in London, become increasingly less popular and are turned into social housing. The raw concrete façade of the London block of flats spreads across almost the entire picture. The empty square in front of it is abandoned. There is no sign of inhabitants: a forbidding place.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher in their pictures of industrial buildings, Axel Hütte emphasises the angular and unwieldy shapes of the architecture in his London series. From a distance the sad, functional façade appears to be an abstract pattern of rhythmically changing shades of grey, behind which the architecture recedes.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'James Hammett House' 1982-1984

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
James Hammett House
1982-1984
Silver gelatin print on baryte paper
66 x 80 cm
Loan of the artist

 

 

In the Street

The row of houses on New York’s 21st Street seems never ending. Old houses and modern high rises alternate and form a sequence of textures and geometric forms rich in contrast. Thomas Struth was struck by the deep street canyons of the metropolis. He took his photos from the middle of the street, positioning the camera at eye-level – a method that resembles that of his teachers. It is an unusual perspective unfamiliar to both pedestrians and drivers.

Struth begins capturing urban spaces already when in Cologne and Düsseldorf. A stipend takes him to New York in 1978. His photographic approach offers a completely new view of the city’s urbanity and structure.

“I may very well stem from the legacy of documentary photography and do use its means and perspective, but my true concern exceeds this. […] To me the street is a space, where manifold influences and historical events convene and become apparent. The public space has a subconscious language, addressing us continuously.”

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York' 1978 (1987)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
West 21st Street, Chelsea, New York
1978 (1987)
Gelatine silver print on baryta paper
66 x 84 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Thomas Struth

 

 

VARIETY

Landscapes, families, places of leisure, libraries, museums – the subjects of the Becher-students are equally as varied as their approach to photography. Their own positions develop more and more, while shared characteristics with their teachers’ oeuvre become apparent.

“Not the subject, but the representation of a landscape is what matters to me.” ~Axel Hütte

Almost two thirds of the picture are concealed by thick fog. The rocks in the foreground, however, are razor sharp. In Furka Axel Hütte plays with the contrast of diffusion and focussed parts of the picture. He explores landscape photography and thus consciously enters into competition with the genre of painting.

Foggy landscape is of great importance in the paintings of German Romanticism. This art movement, which began in the late 19th century, is characterised by mystic nature, where religious ideas are intertwined with subjective sentiment. Caspar David Friedrich is recognised as one of the most important representatives of Romanticist landscape painting. To him nature mirrored the human soul. In his painting Mountains in the Rising Fog, which he painted around 1835, the hills are veiled and only the outlines can be made out. In his photographs, Hütte refers to this tradition and employs similar techniques to guide the viewer’s gaze and to compose the picture. The landscape can be sensually grasped. The atmosphere and the subjective experience come to the fore. While his teachers sought the proximity to sculpture, Hütte’s work reflects the strategies of painting.

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951) 'Furka' 1994 (2012)

 

Axel Hütte (b. 1951)
Furka
1994 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
56.7 × 65.7 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung

 

 

The Silence Beside the Storm

Andreas Gursky’s works are dedicated to traffic hubs, mass events, economic centres, transit zones or places of leisure. Gursky’s focus is always on the common denominator and questions the relationship of man with nature and society. The photograph Teneriffa, Swimming Pool shows a holiday resort from a bird’s eye perspective that makes the tiny holidaymakers almost disappear. The force of nature represented by the foaming sea is in stark contrast with the artificial silence of the adjacent pool.

Like his teachers, Gursky keeps a distance to his subject. But unlike them he does not work in series and concentrates on single works. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s compositions are always about one centrally positioned object. Gursky’s images on the other hand are rich in detail and the motives are spread across the picture plane in captivating sharpness – he plays with visual challenge.

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Teneriffa, Swimming Pool' 1987

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Teneriffa, Swimming Pool
1987
Chromogenic colour print
104.5 × 127 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Own Vantage Points

Candida Höfer too, photographs public spaces. Her photographs follow the architecture of the buildings she finds. At the same time she chooses unusual positions for her camera and thus resists the symmetries or views prescribed by the spaces. Her photos defy architectural hierarchies and structures and thus communicate the spatial experience in a particular way.

Waiting Room Cologne III 1981 is an early example of Höfer’s artistic method. The furniture reaches diagonally into the space, a dynamic underscored by the pattern of the parquet flooring. The row of tables and chairs in the bottom corner is cut off by the edge. Instead of creating a balanced symmetrical composition, she works with alternative vantage points.

This allows Höfer to emphasize her personal view of the interior architecture. Concurrently she is enquiring how the architectural space is influenced by the way people use it in the course of time. The Waiting Room with Neo-Baroque décor dating from the second half of the 19th century forms a stark contrast to the simple furniture that is easily 100 years less old.

“By means of the print I then create my own space once again. It is not my intention to show the space in a manner as realistic as possible.”

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Waiting Room Cologne III 1981' 1981

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Waiting Room Cologne III 1981
1981
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 155 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

Libraries as Brand

Above all Candida Höfer is famous for her large-scale interior views of libraries devoid of people. The workspaces in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris are lined up like books in libraries. The artist frequently focuses on places that preserve and order knowledge and culture. Apart from libraries she also worked on museums or operas. She is interested in how humans influence architecture through their culture. Her photos are always determined by a cool sobriety. This is what they have in common with the photographs of the Bechers. However, Höfer always works with the light and the space present in each situation. She strives to capture the atmosphere and aura of a space.

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) 'Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998' 1998

 

Candida Höfer (b. 1944)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris XIII 1998
1998
Chromogenic colour print
155 × 215 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

The Picture in the Picture

In his series Museum Photographs Thomas Struth focuses on imposing interior spaces such as the gallery at the Louvre in Paris – unlike Höfer, he always shows the visitors, too. They become a multifaceted continuation of the figures in the paintings on the wall. Through the photograph Struth establishes a connection of pictorial space and real space, the painterly and photographic space. Here, the formerly competing media painting and photography enter into a dialogue as equals.

Simultaneously the viewer is confronted with different levels of viewing: those who contemplate Struth’s photos inevitably also observe the visitors at the Louvre contemplating the art works there. Thus the artist prompts a reflection on how we deal with art and its history, with seeing and being seen. Struth does not influence the positions of the visitors in his Museum Photographs. He waits for situations that can serve as the basis of his compositions. Struth merely decides on the space and the visual angle he takes.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'Louvre 3, Paris 1989' 1989 (2012)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
Louvre 3, Paris 1989
1989 (2012)
Chromogenic colour print
152.2 × 168.3 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

 

 

Family Relations

The photo The Consolandi Family, Milano by Thomas Struth belongs to the series Family Portraits, which shows relationships that are complex and full of tension. The viewer is challenged to explore the connections of the family, reflected in subtle looks, mimics or posture.

The Family Portraits evolved from an unpublished project, which Struth and a friend of his, a psychoanalyst, pursued in the early 1980s. Patients were asked to submit a couple of photographs that were typical of their families, which Struth then combined in a portfolio. Drawing on this project, the photographer began to work with family portraits he took. He photographed people he knew in their homes. The individuals were asked to choose their position in a space that the artist had selected. Struth’s psychological interest in the family as a social fabric is evident. The order resembles a sociagram after all.

Like the Bechers’ works, Struth’s photographs are determined by an intrinsic dynamic full of tension. While his teachers work with industrial fields of force, he balances psychological energies. This results in an alternation of perception – the eye sways between single pictorial elements and the total composition.

 

Thomas Struth (*1954) 'The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996' 1996 (2014)

 

Thomas Struth (*1954)
The Consolandi Family, Milan 1996
1996 (2014)
Chromogenic colour print
178 × 214.2 cm
Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation

 

 

PICTURE EDITING

In February 1982 the first great scandal about a digitally edited press picture occurs: for the title of the periodical National Geographic – actually indebted to scientific exactitude – the pyramids at Gizeh have been pushed closer together so they would fit the portrait format. This represents a fundamental shift in photo and media culture that also affects the work of the Becher students.

Ruff, Sasse and Gursky especially, develop their works digitally. This inevitably distances them from their teachers’ documentary approach more and more. The artists do not depict reality they create their own reality. This results in photographs that cannot be explained through analogue camera technology. The truth in the pictures is questioned, just like the viewer’s perception. In nascent form this approach is already present in the typologies created by the Bechers.

 

Digital interventions

This photo of an average residential block from 1987 marks a turning point in Thomas Ruff’s oeuvre. Things – namely a tree and a street sign – are missing. Ruff decided to have these details erased. He also retouched an opened skylight. This is one of the first digitally edited pictures in the circle of the Becher students. Ruff’s idea is to emphasise the symmetrical appearance and the hermetic quality of the building. Still, he is not really meddling with the picture’s structure of reality.

Ruff’s photos of the House Series confront the viewer with urban banality. The enormous scale of the works, measuring nearly 2 x 3 metres exaggerates the uneventfulness as a crucial characteristic of this architecture. From the 1980s the Becher students increasingly use large formats. They become a trademark of the group. Mostly presented with a wooden frame the artists elevate the photos to the level of paintings. Like the Bechers, Ruff worked in series, but no longer arranged his works in typologies. His series preserve the suspicion of a single image that might represent the world.

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'House No. 1 I' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)
House No. 1 I
1987
Chromogenic colour print
179 × 278 cm
Loan from the artist

 

 

Giant Grid

In photos like Paris, Montparnasse Andreas Gursky enlarges the image to a monumental scale of over four metres in width. He, too, relies on digital editing. The frontal view of the residential block is presented in strictly right-angular lines. The building is so wide that it would be impossible to capture it in a single photo. Hence, Gursky used two photos and joined them on the computer.

From a distance, the geometrical grid of the building looks abstract. The skeleton structure of the block also means that the windows offer hundreds of single images. However, it is impossible to simultaneously perceive the detail as well as the overall structure. Gursky requires the viewer to constantly alternate his focus between close-up and distance.

“My pictures are always composed for two aspects […]. The smallest detail can be read from close up. From afar they are mega-signs.”

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

 

Exhibition view “Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class”
Photo: Städel Museum

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) 'Paris, Montparnasse' 1993 (before 2003)

 

Andreas Gursky (b. 1955)
Paris, Montparnasse
1993 (before 2003)
Chromogenic colour print
207 × 422 cm
On loan from the artist / Courtesy Sprüth Magers

 

 

Pixel and Pixel and Pixel

Sasse’s work 1546 (1993) also plays with perception at the border of abstraction. The single pixels as a trace of the digital reworking are immediately visible. The realistic representation of a curtain is ruptured. Instead pixel and square colour fields become the focus, while the original sense of space is lost. The photo appears two-dimensional.

Sasse takes up a basic issue with the illusion of space that has a long art historic tradition. Already in early Renaissance the artist and scholar Leon Battista Alberti considers painting as a window to the world. He considered it important for an illusionist way of painting to conceal the two-dimensionality of the canvas. In his oeuvre Sasses draws on this issue. He questions photography and painting’s claim to realism and questions the possibility of pictorially representing reality at all.

 

Exhibition view "Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class"

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) 1546, 1993 (centre) and Jörg Sasse (*1962) 7341, 1996 (right)

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962) '1546' 1993

 

Jörg Sasse (b. 1962)
1546
1993
Chromogenic colour print
137 × 200 cm
Private collection

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962) '7341' 1996

 

Jörg Sasse (*1962)
7341
1996
Chromogenic colour print
93 x 150 cm
DZ BANK art collection at the Städel Museum
© Jörg Sasse; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Becher Class at the Städel Museum website

Städel Museum website

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05
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 26th October 2014 – 11th January 2015

 

What looks to be another fascinating exhibition. They are coming thick and fast at the moment, it’s hard to keep up!

Marcus

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

 

 

“The American city of the 1960s and 1970s experienced seismic physical changes and social transformations, from urban decay and political protests to massive highways that threatened vibrant neighborhoods. Nowhere was this sense of crisis more evident than in the country’s three largest cities: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Yet in this climate of uncertainty and upheaval, the streets and neighborhoods of these cities offered places where a host of different actors – photographers, artists, filmmakers, planners, and activists – could transform these conditions of crisis into opportunities for civic discourse and creative expression.

The City Lost and Found is the first exhibition to explore this seminal period through the emergence of new photographic and cinematic practices that reached from the art world to the pages of Life magazine. Instead of aerial views and sweeping panoramas, photographers and filmmakers turned to in-depth studies of streets, pedestrian life, neighborhoods, and seminal urban events, like Bruce Davidson’s two-year study of a single block in Harlem, East 100th Street (1966-68). These new forms of photography offered the public a complex image of urban life and experience while also allowing architects, planners, and journalists to imagine and propose new futures for American cities.

Drawn from the Art Institute’s holdings, as well as from more than 30 collections across the United States, this exhibition brings together a large range of media, from slideshows and planning documents to photo collage and artist books. The City Lost and Found showcases important bodies of work by renowned photographers and photojournalists such as Thomas Struth, Martha Rosler, and Barton Silverman, along with artists known for their profound connections to place, such as Romare Bearden in New York and ASCO in Los Angeles. In addition, projects like artist Allan Kaprow’s Chicago happening, Moving, and architect Shadrach Wood’s hybrid plan for SoHo demonstrate how photography and film were used in unconventional ways to make critical statements about the stakes of urban change. Blurring traditional boundaries between artists, activists, planners, and journalists, The City Lost and Found offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience the deep interconnections between art practices and the political, social, and geographic realities of American cities in the 1960s and 1970s.

Organizer
The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980 is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Princeton University Art Museum.”

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

James Nares
Pendulum
1976
Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

James Nares’s film Pendulum illustrates the extraordinary status of Lower Manhattan during the 1970s, where disuse and decay created both the threat of demolition and the freedom to produce ambitious public art projects. The film shows a large pendulum swinging languidly in largely abandoned streets, suggesting the passage of time as well as the menace of the wrecking ball. Nares created this project by suspending a cast-concrete ball from an elevated pedestrian bridge on Staple Street on the Lower West Side adjacent to his loft. Unlike many neighborhoods, urban renewal plans never came to fruition for this area, which still retains a connection to this precarious, yet liberating time in New York.

 

Romare Bearden. 'The Block II' (detail) 1972

 

Romare Bearden
The Block II (detail)
1972
Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

 

This monumental collage depicts both a specific, identifiable block in Harlem and also the importance of everyday routines to the city. From the 1960s Romare Bearden used collage to convey the texture and dynamism of urban life, combining paint and pencil with found photographs and images from newspapers, magazines, product labels, and fabric and wallpaper samples. Here Bearden showed the diverse inhabitants of Harlem apartment buildings perched in windows and on fire escapes, sitting on front stoops and street benches. The scene highlights the innumerable ways city dwellers “make do” so that their environments are more functional and livable, from transforming front steps into a living room to turning sidewalks into playgrounds. While Bearden’s work has strong connections to avant-garde art and American and African histories, his collage technique can also be seen as a form of making do, just like the practices of his neighbors in New York.

 

 

“The American city of the 1960s and ’70s witnessed seismic physical changes and social transformations, from shifting demographics and political protests to the aftermath of decades of urban renewal. In this climate of upheaval and uncertainty, a range of makers – including photographers, filmmakers, urban planners, architects, and performance artists – countered the image of the city in crisis by focusing on the potential and the complexity of urban places. Moving away from the representation of cities through aerial views, maps, and sweeping panoramas, new photographic and planning practices in New YorkChicago, and Los Angeles explored real streets, neighborhoods, and important urban events, from the Watts Rebellion to the protests surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. These ideas and images defined not only cities’ social and political stakes in the eyes of the American public, but they also led a new generation of architects, urban planners, and sociologists to challenge long-held attitudes about the future of inner-city neighborhoods.

Works throughout the exhibition describe this new ideal of urban experience following three main lines of inquiry – preservation, demonstration, and renewal. The first reflects the widespread interest in preserving urban neighborhoods and communities, including the rise of the historic preservation movement in the United States. The second captures the idea of demonstration in the broadest sense, encompassing political protests during the 1960s, as well as temporary appropriations of streets and urban neighborhoods through performance art, film, and murals. The third, renewal, presents new and alternative visions for the future of American cities created by artists, filmmakers, architects, and planners. Together these works blur the lines between artists, activists, and journalists, and demonstrate the deep connections between art practices and the political, social, and geographic realities of American cities in a tumultuous era.”

 

New York

The election of Mayor John Lindsay in 1965 represented a watershed for New York, as the city moved away from administrator Robert Moses’s highly centralized push for new infrastructure and construction in previous decades. Lindsay’s efforts to create a more open and participatory city government were often in dialogue with ideas advanced by critic Jane Jacobs, who argued for the value of streets, neighborhoods, and small-scale change. This new focus on local and self-directed interventions had a wide influence, leading to the development of pocket parks to replace vacant lots and the groundbreaking Plan for New York City’s use of photo essays and graphic design to express goals of diversity and community. In turn, many artists of the period, including Hans Haacke and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, created work that directly engaged with important social and political issues in the city, such as slum housing and labor strikes.

A multifaceted theme of preservation comes to the fore in work by the many artists and architects in New York who documented, staged, and inhabited areas where buildings were left vacant and in disrepair following postwar shifts in population and industry. The historic streets of Lower Manhattan became an integral part of projects by artist Gordon Matta-Clark and architect Paul Rudolph, for example, while low-income, yet vibrant neighborhoods like Harlem gave rise to important bodies of work by Romare Bearden, Bruce Davidson, and Martha Rosler. James Nares’s elegiac film Pendulum and Danny Lyon’s remarkable photographs in The Destruction of Lower Manhattan are examples of a growing awareness of the struggle to preserve the existing urban fabric and cultures of New York during the 1960s and ’70s.

 

Mierle Laderman Ukeles. 'Touch Sanitation Performance' 1977-80

 

Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Touch Sanitation Performance
1977-80
Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

 

In 1977 Mierle Laderman Ukeles embarked on the multiyear performance piece Touch Sanitation, in which she shook the hand of every one of the 8,500 sanitation workers, or “sanmen,” employed by the city of New York, in keeping with her practice’s focus on labor. After the vilification of sanitation workers during the strikes of 1968, Ukeles’s personal and political camaraderie with the workers took on particular importance; every handshake was accompanied by the words “Thank you for keeping the city alive.” She worked the same hours as the sanmen and followed their paths through the streets of New York. Touch Sanitation was also distinguished by the importance Ukeles placed on the participation of the workers, as she explained in the brochure for the project: “I’m creating a huge artwork called TOUCH SANITATION about and with you, the men of the Department. All of you.”

 

Paul Rudolph. 'Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City, perspective section' c. 1970

 

Paul Rudolph
Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City, perspective section
c. 1970
The Paul Rudolph Archive, Library of Congress

 

Known for high-tech buildings in concrete, architect Paul Rudolph began working on a project for Lower Manhattan Expressway in 1965, funded by the Ford Foundation as research and design exploring “New Forms of the Evolving City.” Rudolph diverged from Robert Moses’s strategy for infrastructural projects through a sensitive engagement with the scale and texture of the dense urban fabric of Lower Manhattan. He proposed a below-grade road surmounted by a large, continuous residential structure of varying heights that would protect the surrounding neighborhood from the pollution and noise of the highway. In many places this terraced megastructure was precisely scaled to the height of the surrounding loft buildings, with entrances and gardens on existing streets, a contextual quality emphasized in his detailed drawings. Rudolph also designed the expressway complex to resonate with established functions and symbols of the city, with tall buildings flanking the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges like monumental gates to the city.

 

Thomas Struth. 'Crosby Street, New York, Soho' 1978

 

Thomas Struth
Crosby Street, New York, Soho, 1978
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth’s 1978 photographs in the series Streets of New York City are remarkable representations of a city undergoing dramatic change, from the derelict streets of Lower Manhattan and public-housing buildings in Harlem to the dazzling, mirage-like towers of the newly built World Trade Center. Struth produced these photographs during a residency at the New York Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Inc. (now MoMA’s PS1) from December 1977 until September 1978. As he would later write, “I was interested in the possibility of the photographic image revealing the different character or the ‘sound’ of the place. I learned that certain areas of the city have an emblematic character; they express the city’s structure.” Although these photographs adopt the symmetrical framing and deadpan documentary style of his mentors Bernd and Hilla Becher, they led Struth to ask, “Who has the responsibility for the way a city is?”

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled', from 'East 100th Street' 1966-68

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled, from East 100th Street
1966-68
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York and Magnum Photos

 

 

Chicago

In the 1960s and ’70s Chicago emerged from its industrial past led by a powerful mayor, Richard J. Daley, who prioritized development in the downtown areas. His work to modernize the city resulted in the construction of massive highways, housing projects, and imposing skyscrapers – new architectural and infrastructural icons that were explored by many photographers of the era. The arts experienced a similar boom, with the foundation and expansion of museums and university programs. Growth came at a cost, however, and the art of this period highlights the disparate experiences of local communities in Chicago, including Jonas Dovydenas’s photographs of life in ethnic neighborhoods and independent films exploring issues ranging from the work of African American community activists to the forced evictions caused by urban renewal projects.

Demonstrations loomed large in Chicago, where artists responded to two major uprisings in 1968, the first on the West Side, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the second downtown, during the Democratic National Convention. These violent confrontations between protestors and police drew national attention to issues of race relations and political corruption in Chicago and led to an outpouring of new art projects as forms of demonstration, including community murals like the West Wall and an exhibition at the Richard Feigen Gallery condemning Daley’s actions during the DNC. The image of Chicago that emerged in the mass media of this period was one of destruction and resilience, a duality highlighted by contemporary artists like Gordon-Matta Clark and Allan Kaprow, whose work existed in the fragile space of opportunity between the streets and the wrecking ball.

 

Ken Josephson. 'Chicago' 1969

 

Ken Josephson
Chicago
1969
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

Still from Lord Thing, directed by DeWitt Beall, 1970

 

Still from Lord Thing, directed by DeWitt Beall, 1970. Courtesy Chicago Film Archives

 

Lord Thing documents the development of the Vice Lords from an informal club for young men on the streets of Chicago’s West Side, its emergence as a street gang, and its evolution into the Conservative Vice Lords, a splinter group that aspired to nonviolent community activism. The film uses a mix of black-and-white sequences to retrospectively analyze the group’s violent middle period and contrasts these with color sequences that show the Conservative Vice Lords fostering unity and developing black-owned businesses and social programs during the late 1960s. Together, Lord Thing argues for the agency of African Americans in the face of decades of spatialized oppression in Chicago.

 

Art Sinsabaugh. 'Chicago Landscape #117' 1966

 

Art Sinsabaugh
Chicago Landscape #117
1966
Art Sinsabaugh Archive, Indiana University Art Museum
© 2004 Katherine Anne Sinsabaugh and Elisabeth Sinsabaugh de la Cova

 

Sinsabaugh’s panoramic photographs are among the most distinctive visual records of Chicago, capturing the built landscape with what Sinsabaugh called “special photographic seeing,” achieved with large-format negatives. The Department of City Planning used his photographs in a 1963 planning document to help describe the qualities of Chicago’s tall buildings “as vertical forms contrasting with these two great horizontal expanses [the flat prairie and the lakefront edge].” Sinsabaugh’s panoramas also flirt with abstraction when depicting such remarkable places as Chicago’s Circle Interchange, a monumental coil of highways completed in the early 1960s. Sinsabaugh recalled that for the photographer, like the motorist, freeways provided “an access, an opening, a swath cut right through the heart of the City in all directions.” However, his early thrill at the novelty of these developments soon gave way to an appreciation of their violence, in which entire “neighborhoods were laid bare and their very bowels exposed.” (Please enlarge by clicking on the image)

 

Alvin Boyarsky. 'Chicago à la Carte: The City as Energy System' 1970

 

Alvin Boyarsky
Chicago à la Carte: The City as Energy System
1970
Special issue of Architectural Design, December 1970
Courtesy Alvin Boyarsky Archive, London

 

The concept of the city as organism emerged during the 1960s as a response to the increasingly complex interconnections of technology, communication, and history. One exceptional project in this vein was the British architect Alvin Boyarsky’s Chicago à la Carte. Boyarsky drew on an archive of historical postcards, newspaper clippings, and printed ephemera to trace a hidden history of Chicago’s built environment as an “energy system.” This idea was represented on the cover by a striking postcard image of a vivisection of State Street in the Loop, showing subway tunnels, sidewalks, El tracks, and skyscrapers in what Boyarsky described as “the tumultuous, active, mobile, and everywhere dynamic centre of a vast distribution system.” On other pages, Boyarsky showed images of Chicago’s newly built skyscrapers with newspaper clippings of recent political protests to juxtapose the city’s reaction to recent political protests against the disciplinary tradition of modern architecture in Chicago.

 

 

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has always been known for its exceptionalism, as a city of horizontal rather than vertical growth and a place where categories of private and public space prove complex and intertwined. During the 1960s and ’70s these qualities inspired visual responses by seminal artists like Ed Ruscha as well as critics like Reyner Banham, one of the most attentive observers of the city during this period. In many other respects, however, Los Angeles experienced events and issues similar to those of New York and Chicago, including problems of racial segregation, a sense of crisis about the decay of its historical downtown, and large-scale demonstrations, with responses ranging from photography and sculpture to provocative new forms of performance art by the collective Asco.

Concerns about the future forms of urbanism in Los Angeles and a renewal of the idea of the city were major preoccupations for artists, architects, and filmmakers. Many photographers focused on the everyday banality and auto-centric nature of the city, such as Robbert Flick’s Sequential Views project and Anthony Hernandez’s Public Transit Areas series. The historic downtown core continued to hold a special place in popular memory as many of these areas – including the former neighborhood of Bunker Hill – were razed and rebuilt. Julius Shulman’s photographs of new development in the 1960s – including Bunker Hill and Century City – focus on the spectacular quality of recent buildings as well their physical and cultural vacancy. Architects played a strong role in creating new visions for the future city, including an unrealized, yet bold and influential plan for redeveloping Grand Avenue as a mixed-use district shaped by ideals of diversity and pedestrian-friendly New Urbanism.

 

Julius Shulman. 'The Castle, 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue, Los Angeles, California, (Demolished 1969)' c. 1968

 

Julius Shulman
The Castle, 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue, Los Angeles, California, (Demolished 1969)
c. 1968
Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission

 

Asco. 'Decoy Gang War Victim' 1974 (printed later)

 

Asco
Decoy Gang War Victim
1974 (printed later)
Photograph by Harry Gamboa Jr.
Courtesy of Harry Gamboa Jr.

 

The Chicano art collective Asco was famous for their No Movies – works that appropriate certain stylistic qualities of the movies while maintaining a nonchalance that allows them to critique the media industry’s role in Los Angeles. Asco’s performances, therefore, function on different registers to engage with current events and issues facing the Chicano community as well as acknowledge the mainstream media’s distorted image of the city. For Decoy Gang War Victim, Asco’s members staged a fake gang shooting then circulated the images to local television stations, simultaneously feeding and deriding the media’s hunger for sensationalist imagery of urban neighborhoods.

 

William Reagh. 'Bunker Hill to soon be developed' 1971 (printed later)

 

William Reagh
Bunker Hill to soon be developed
1971 (printed later)
Los Angeles Public Library

 

John Humble. '300 Block of Broadway, Los Angeles, October 3, 1980' 1980

 

John Humble
300 Block of Broadway, Los Angeles, October 3, 1980
1980
Courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago
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Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
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05
Nov
14

Exhibition / text: ‘From Steam to Diesel’ at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 7th November 2014

 

This is a great project. The photographs are wonderful. At one time they could have almost been made here in Victoria, Australia.

Archie Foley who found the 500 or so railway related negatives taken by, at this stage, an anonymous British Railways engine driver was quite taken aback to get an email from half way around the world asking for some press images – but this is what this blog does, promote eclectic exhibitions of interesting photography from around the world, no matter how small they are.

I have always loved trains and the photographs of them (including the ones by Winston O. Link). Once I saw the images I think I shed a tear at the beauty of them. Archie informs me that the negatives are a mixture of 127; 6cm square and a larger 6cm x 8cm. There are notes of the cameras the photographer used and his favourite appears to have been an Isolette 11 (see below). However he also used Ikonta; Suprima; Isola and Super Isolette. These cameras have reasonable optical quality (not as good as a Rollei twin lens for example) with the advantage that they have a large negative and can be folded up and put in a jacket pocket, to be taken out when needed.

As a good friend of mine Ian observed,
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I nearly said 6×8 cm last night – I know its difficult to believe after the event, and the Isolette has the same basic shape as the Voigtlander I suspected. The Voigtlander was like some of the Rolleis and you could put in a metal mask that would allow 6 x 8, 6 x 6, 6 x 4.5 as well the full 6 x 9. I suspect the Voigtlander was a bit upmarket from the Isolette: the Agfa cameras at the time of these pictures were good cameras and (obviously) with German lenses. I don’t know if they had those masks but I am guessing you could do the same with the Isolette. One claim I have seen is that the lenses were more matched to emulsions of the 50’s and were contrasty with later emulsions. I would have to know a lot more to verify that. The pictures look optically good to me. There were some extraordinary European films in 120 stock – I caught the end of them – 12 ISO and wooden spools – and  SENSATIONAL tonal scales. 

Of all cameras (even 35mm), the drop front cameras like the Isolette had the best connection to the people you were photographing. I don’t mean through the  viewfinder – I mean that the viewfinder was just for checking the composition – you really had to do a lot of looking over the camera. Probably the old Stieglitz Graflex was just as communicative. With the bellows extension there would be a scale on the focussing track that would tell you the distance the camera was focussed to – no other way to check!

As a kid I played with Marklin toy trains and they published a book that I still have called “The Marklin Miniature Railway and its Prototype”. It is old  and faded now, but there were sections on how to do signalling etc. on your train set so that it matched the real thing etc…

 

What interests me most about these stunning images is the use of space by the photographer. These railway photographs with their beautiful but naive space have an almost mythic quality to them. I know a little about photography and from my knowledge I cannot think of anyone else that handles space like this in a photograph (save for perhaps Thomas Struth and the space around the people in his museum photographs or his group portraits of people in Japan, and even then he blocks the exit for the eye behind his tableaux vivant).

I have been racking my brains but these are really unique, especially the square format portrait shots. Look at the first photograph Four men with loco 55210 (below) and notice the expanse of platform and line of the train that leads the eye into the depiction of the four men. The light that falls on them is superlative but notice how the photographer keeps a respectful distance for this is not portrait photography which attempts to capture a fleeting, revealing moment or expression. The photographer places them as though to “encourage contemplation and investigation, inviting the viewer to reflect upon the limits of his or her knowledge of other people.” The eye scans the image for clues, giving the viewer pause to take in the scene: and low and behold what opens up behind the four men is this most magnificent space with the curve of the platform, the girders and the silence of the dark train in the distance.

As in Thomas Struth’s photographs of architectural East Berlin these photographs bring about ‘a move to investigative viewing’ which is also a ‘call to interact’. But these photographs don’t possess the base objectivity of Struth for they are a little too engaging of their space (their antithesis being the photographs by Alec Soth from his series Niagara).

Further evidence of the sophistication of the composition of these images can be found in the two photographs Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox and Man on platform in front of signal array (below). In the first photograph the man is embedded in the landscape, his weight shifting slightly to his right foot as his shadow falls on the fence beside him, the fence line and train tracks lead the eye into the image and off into an amorphous, infinite distance. Again, in the second photograph the figure is not front and centre but part of an ensemble as the eye is led this time by a massive horizontal plane into the image. He stands on the platform as if on the deck of an aircraft carrier. And then there are the two close up portraits, Jackie Collett at Beattock and A smiling fireman (below) where the photographer has climbed up into the intimate space of the drivers cab and got them to be comfortable enough to reveal themselves to the camera -in that light! -with those backgrounds!

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The use of lenses today is proof of how difficult it is to think and feel space while taking a picture. These days everyone has a zoom lens but it is nearly always used by people to fill the frame with the main subject. But with a zoom there are infinite relationships between foreground and background if the photographer is free to move in relation to the main subject… and sometimes we are. Or to put it another way, we are able to control the degree of flattening of space with a zoom lens infinitely. If we have 2 fixed lenses we have 2 controls of space. This anonymous photographer and the German photographer Thomas Struth in particular seem to have the ability to think about this space control, and resolve it in different ways. Sometimes for Struth the quality of the space in the city streets or in a museum announces these places as pictures.

Struth is someone who has an affinity with the railway group photographs for his photographs, like these, resist immediate consumption. They make the viewer pause and think. “Discussing Struth’s work, the critic Richard Sennett has written: ‘We relate to these images as we might appreciate strangers in a crowd; we feel their presence without the need to transgress boundaries by demanding intimacy or revelation … people guard their separateness even as they present themselves directly to us.’ (Sennett p. 94.) Struth’s portraits encourage contemplation and investigation, inviting the viewer to reflect upon the limits of his or her knowledge of other people.”1 And, sotto voce, so do these photographs… The speaker gives the impression of uttering a truth which may surprise and delight.

As Archie has noted in his correspondence with me, the exhibition has been done on a shoestring budget but from small beginnings – and acorns – mighty oaks grow. All power to both Archie Foley and Peter Ross for arranging it. A book and larger exhibition would be a wonderful representation of this work. All I can say is this: that I hope this posting helps that process along for these photographs have a magnificent soul. Simply put, they are great.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Richard Sennett, Thomas Struth: Strangers and Friends, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Art, London 1994 quoted in “Thomas Struth: The Shimada Family, Yamaguchi, Japan 1986” Text summary on the Tate website [Online] Cited 04/11/2014

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Many thankx to Archie Foley and Peter Ross for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © Archie Foley and Peter Ross and may not be used without permission.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to John of Print Vision (0131 661 8855) for his advice during the preparation and for producing such excellent prints.

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Four men with loco 55210' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Four men with loco 55210
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Women workers in front of posters' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Women workers in front of posters
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Shotts Iron Work’s Signalbox
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Man on platform in front of signal array' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Man on platform in front of signal array
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Jackie Collett at Beattock' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Jackie Collett at Beattock
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'A smiling fireman' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
A smiling fireman
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

 

“This exhibition has been compiled from a collection of photo negatives found by Archie Foley in a collector’s fair in Portobello. As he went through the collection he was able to extract 100s of railway related negatives dating from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s that showed that the photographer must have been a British Railways engine driver. A chance meeting and conversation with local photographer and video producer, Peter E. Ross, on a bus going into Edinburgh led to the decision to mount an exhibition of photographs made from selected negatives.

As a colleague the driver/photographer was able to snap drivers, shunters, platelayers, signalmen, cleaners and others at work in locations in and around Edinburgh and, occasionally, a bit further afield. The photographs are a unique behind the scenes record of the men and women who worked on the railway and how it looked before diesel power finally replaced steam in 1968.

This is the first time that the photographs have been on public show and Archie and Peter feel privileged to be able to display, and pay tribute to, the dedication and skill of the, as yet unidentified, photographer. Neither Archie nor Peter is an expert on railways and invite visitors to use the Visitors’ Book to suggest possible locations for photographs where these are not given. Please also suggest amendments if you believe any of the captions are incorrect.

The exhibition is at Portobello Library, Rosefield Avenue from Monday, 20th October to Friday, 7th November.

Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The game's a bogie' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
The game’s a bogie
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Duchess of Buccleuch on turntable' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Duchess of Buccleuch on turntable
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Duchess of Buccleuch bearing "Royal Scot" headboard' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Duchess of Buccleuch bearing “Royal Scot” headboard
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

The two photographs above were obviously taken at the same time as each other (look at the tall trees in the background). I love how the photographer has moved across the tracks from the distance shot onto an oblique angle with the twin arches of the bridge in the background for the closer photograph. You can seen some unevenness in the development of the film in the foreground of both images but no matter, these imaegs give real insight into how this artist was operating, what his thinking was when photographing their behemoths.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The photographer in working clothes' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
The photographer in working clothes
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Six cleaners, one man and three buckets' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Six cleaners, one man and three buckets
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Colinton Station with guard on loco' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Colinton Station with guard on loco
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Diesel unit with guard' mid-1950s to the early 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
Diesel unit with guard
mid-1950s to the early 1960s
© Archie Foley and Peter Ross

 

Agfa Isolette II camera 1960s

 

Agfa Isolette II (1950-60), showing the characteristic wide raised centre of its top housing. The thick knurled disc on the right (of the picture) is a film-type reminder dial.

 

Isolette II

The Isolette II (1950-60) was sold alongside the ‘I’; it is an alternative model offering higher specification than the ‘I’, not a successor to it. The camera was available (for at least some time) with coated 85 mm f/4.5 Agnar or Apotar or 75 mm f/3.5 Solinar lenses; however, most examples seen have the Apotar. McKeown gives a very wide range of shutters (Vario, Pronto, Prontor-S and SV, Compur Rapid and Synchro-Compur). This reflects changes in the specification over the period the camera was made (i.e. not all of these shutters were available at the same time): for example, a user’s manual (of unknown date) only lists the Pronto and Prontor SVS. The range of shutter speeds is therefore variable between examples. Some of the shutters have a delayed action. Most are synchronised (some have switchable M and X-synchronisation). On some examples of the camera, there is a shutter locking lever on the back of the top housing, to provide ‘T’ shutter by locking the release button down, where the shutter itself does not have a ‘T’ setting.

Unlike the Isolette I and all the preceding models, the film advance knob is on the right. The camera still has a swing-out spool-holder on the supply side of the film chamber.
There is a double-exposure prevention interlock; this engages after releasing the shutter, and is disengaged by advancing the film. It has a red (locked) or silver (unlocked) indicator in a hole in the top-plate, next to the advance knob. Like the ‘T’ lock, this interlock acts on the body release button, so if the lock engages accidentally, or a double exposure is desired, it is still possible to release the shutter by pressing the linkage on the shutter itself (or with a cable release, on versions of the camera on which the cable attaches directly to the shutter, not the body release; they vary in this respect).

Like the Isolette I, early versions of the II have a disc-type depth-of-field indicator on the left of the top plate.[6] On later cameras this is replaced with a film-type reminder, and the DOF scale, if any, is on the shutter face-plate. (Text from the Camera-wiki.org website)

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'From Steam to Diesel' at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh

 

Installation photograph of one half of the exhibition From Steam to Diesel at the Portobello Library, Edinburgh. The other half of the exhibition is off camera to the right.

 

 

Portobello Library
14 Rosefield Avenue, Edinburgh,
Midlothian, EH15 1AU

Opening hours
Monday 10.00 – 20.00
Tuesday 10.00 – 20.00
Wednesday 10.00 – 20.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
Friday 10.00 – 17.00
Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Sunday 13.00 – 17.00

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17
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘People In A River Landscape: August Sander And The Photography Of The Present From The Lothar Schirmer Collection’ at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 24th August 2014

 

What a fascinating exhibition this looks to be… I wish I could see it!
Quite a few Sander photographs I have never seen before in the posting.
Sander is another photographer that would be near the top of my list.

Marcus

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

 

 

August Sander. 'Stadtwald [Urban Forest]' c. 1938

 

August Sander
Stadtwald [Urban Forest]
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print
23 x 29 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Children in the city' 1930

 

August Sander
Children in the city
1930
Gelatin silver print
21.3 x 26 cm (sheet)
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Alter Posthof in Bacharach' 1926

 

August Sander
Alter Posthof in Bacharach
1926
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 21.4 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Sander-Die-Familie-WEB

 

August Sander
Die Familie in der Generation
1912
Gelatin silver print
21.5 x 28.6 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Deutz Bridge, Rhine in winter' 1937

 

August Sander
Deutz Bridge, Rhine in winter
1937
Gelatin silver print
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'The Rhine near Boppard, Osterspey' 1938

 

August Sander
The Rhine near Boppard, Osterspey
1938
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 29.3 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Andreas Gursky. 'The Rhine II' 1999

 

Andreas Gursky
The Rhine II
1999
Chromogenic print
1564 x 3083 mm

 

August Sander. 'View from the Mülheim Bridge, Sunrise' 1938

 

August Sander
View from the Mülheim Bridge, Sunrise
1938
Gelatin silver print
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

August Sander’s epochal cycle People of the 20th Century is considered one of the most important works in the history of art and photography of the last century.

Sander’s photographic typology of German society did not only fascinate artists, writers and philosophers of that period but, at the same time, formed an important point of reference for the artistic concept contemporary photographers had of themselves. This is also reflected in the Munich publisher Lothar Schirmer’s photographic collection, the starting point of which was a group of some 80 works by Sander comprising not only portraits, but also landscapes and urban pictures, acquired in the early 1970s.

This batch of works, acquired from the artist’s estate back in the 1970s, comprises not only more than 40 originals of Sander’s famous portraits, including masterpieces such as the Stammmappe focussing on farmers in Westerwald, the portrait of the artist Heinrich Hoerle in the austere style of New Objectivity and Handlanger, with its impressive visual directness, but also a rare group of lesser known Rhineland landscapes and vedute of Cologne from the 1930s. Precisely the last two groups of works mentioned are enduring proof that Sander’s vision of an equally authentic and veritable document of the times was not only to be limited to people within their social and societal structure but should also include their immediate surroundings, the landscape and the urban environment – an aspect that, for a long time, was given little attention in analyses of the photographer’s work since his death in April, fifty years ago.

In view of the undisputed importance of Sander’s portraits, it is surpising that a more extensive selection of the photographer’s work is only now to be seen in the exhibition People in a River Landscape – and that in Munich too, although there were in fact a number of links between the artist and the city. Sander’s pioneering photography book, Antlitz der Zeit, was published in 1929 by the Munich-based Kurt Wolff Verlag; one year later, his works were to be seen in the exhibition Das Lichtbild – one of the rare presentations of Sander’s works anywhere before 1933; and in the 1960s and ’70s his extensive estate was stored not far from Munich.

Sander’s photographs from this collection will be exhibited for the first time in their entirety and be displayed in dialogue with works by contemporary artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth and Jeff Wall. The selection will be extended by a rare group of extraordinary photographs taken in Berlin by Heinrich Zille in the late 19th /early 20th century and enlarged by Thomas Struth almost 100 years later.

The exhibition presents a both representative and focussed cross section of Sander’s photographic oeuvre. At the same time it shows the medium of photography in a wider perspective by placing individual groups of works by Sander in dialogue with those of contemporary artists. Starting with a typology by Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose encyclopaedically structured work can be regarded as an immediate successor to Sander’s photographic credo, the selection – supplemented by works from the holdings of the Sammlung Moderne Kunst – includes Andreas Gursky’s Rhine picture, urban views by Thomas Struth and Jeff Wall and portraits by Thomas Ruff and Cindy Sherman, among others. The interplay between the past and the present, between small-format, black-and-white prints and colour images the size of large canvases, between austere documentary works and staged and digitally processed pictures, not only illustrates the immediate relevance of Sander’s concept, far beyond any temporal or formal distinctions, but also how photography has become established as an artistic form of expression in its own right within the context of contemporary art. This topic will be explored in greater depth in the accompanying series of lectures Why Photography Matters, at which the artists Hilla Becher and Thomas Struth, as well as the art historians Wolfgang Kemp and Michael Fried will be speaking. As a modest homage to another historical precursor, the exhibition finishes with a rare group of photographs of Berlin by Heinrich Zille taken at the turn of the century, which Thomas Struth enlarged and reinterpreted in 1985 using the original negatives.”

Press release from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

 

Jeff Wall. 'The Thinker' 1986

 

Jeff Wall
The Thinker
1986
Large-format slides in lightbox
216 x 229 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
Courtesy of the artist
© Jeff Wall

 

August Sander. 'Handlanger [Odd-job man]' 1928

 

August Sander
Handlanger [Odd-job man]
1928
Gelatin silver print
43.0 x 28.5 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #127' 1983

 

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #127
1983
© Cindy Sherman / Courtesy Schirmer/Mosel München

 

August Sander. 'The Architect [Hans Poelzig]' 1929

 

August Sander
The Architect [Hans Poelzig]
1929
Gelatin silver print
40 x 29.8 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Portrait (T. Ruff)' [Selfportrait] 1987

 

Thomas Ruff
Portrait (T. Ruff) [Selfportrait]
1987
C-Print/Diasec
210 x 165 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Der erdgebundene Mensch' [The Earthbound Human] 1910

 

August Sander
Der erdgebundene Mensch [The Earthbound Human]
1910
Gelatin silver print
29.2 x 23.1 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Bauernpaar - Zucht und Harmonie' [Peasant Couple - Breeding and Harmony] 1912

 

August Sander
Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie [Peasant Couple – Breeding and Harmony]
1912
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 23.1 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Thomas Struth. 'Alte Pinakothek, Self-portrait, Munich' 2000

 

Thomas Struth
Alte Pinakothek, Self-portrait, Munich
2000
© Thomas Struth / Courtesy Schirmer/Mosel München

 

August Sander. 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928

 

August Sander
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]
1928
Gelatin silver print
59.3 x 47.7 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

Opening hours:
Daily except Monday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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27
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Edouard Baldus and the Modern Landscape. Important Salt Prints of Paris from the 1850s’ at James Hyman Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 12th October – 9th November 2012

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A beautiful, complimentary post to the last one on the exhibition Eugène Atget: Old Paris. It is interesting to compare the styles of the two photographers and the change in photography that takes place between the 1850s and the 1890s. Baldus’ photographs are eloquent in their grandeur and frontality, tonality and texture. Atget’s photographs on the other hand are slightly claustrophobic in their intensity, the camera obliquely placed to capture old buildings, narrow cobbled streets and distant vanishing points. Both, in their own way, are very modern photographers. Baldus’ legacy, as Dr James Hyman correctly notes, was his influence on his German compatriots such as the Bechers, Thomas Struth and, to a lesser extent, Andreas Gursky. His rigorous frontality (the photographing of the thing itself) gives his photographs the simplicity of diagrams and emphasises their topographical state, while their density of detail offers encyclopedic richness. This straightforward “objective” point of view was most notably used by Bernd and Hilla Becher in contemporary photography. Atget’s photographs, on the other hand, aroused an immediate interest “among the Surrealists because of the composition, ghosting, reflections, and its very mundanity.”

Conversely, it is the subjective signature of both artists that make their work truly great – not the mundanity, not the topographic objectivity but their intimate vision of this city, Paris. As I noted in an earlier posting on the Bechers,

“These are subjective images for all their objective desire. The paradox is the more a photographer strives for objectivity, the more ego drops away, the more the work becomes their own: subjective, beautiful, emotive… What makes great photographers, such as Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, August Sander and the Bechers, is the idiosyncratic “nature” of their vision: how Atget places his large view camera – at that particular height and angle to the subject – leaves an indelible feeling that only he could have made that image, to reveal the magic of that space in a photograph. It is their personal, unique thumbprint, recognisable in an instant.”

The same can be said of Baldus and these magnificent, ethereal photographs.

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Many thankx to James Hyman Gallery 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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Edouard Baldus
Le Nouveau Louvre
c. 1857
Salt print mounted on card
31.6 x 44.3 cms (12.42 x 17.41 ins)
Le Nouveau Louvre series: 1855-7 Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: no 107 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Le Nouveau Louvre
Dimensions Mount: 43.8 x 60.9 cms Image: 31.6 x 44.3 cms

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Mid-nineteenth century Paris was a city in the midst of modernisation, and as such, was ripe for documentation of its changing landscape. Counted as one of the premier photographers of his day, Edouard Baldus captured the aesthetic of the Second Empire’s ideology in his monumental views of both old and new Parisian landmarks. In 1855, Baldus received his largest commission, to document the construction of the Musee du Louvre. This rich salt print is a survey of the project as it nears almost full completion. Baldus produced over two thousand images of each part of the new Louvre, from large pavilions to small decorative statue. This photograph, however, takes a step back from the individual pieces of the lengthy project, and allows the viewer to appreciate the endeavour as a whole.

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Edouard Baldus
Vue generale de Paris pont neuf
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
33.6 x 43.9 cms (13.20 x 17.25 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: no 82 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Vue generales des Paris pont neuf
Dimensions Mount: 43.9 x 61 cms Image: 33.6 x 43.9 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Le Pantheon
1853
Salt print mounted on card
33.8 x 43.5 cms (13.28 x 17.10 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: Le Pantheon Lower right inscribed in negative: Baldus Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Le Pantheon
Dimensions Mount: 44 x 60.8 cms Image: 33.8 x 43.5 cms

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Due to the strength of his architectural imagery and work with the Mission Heliographique, Baldus would go on to gain the support of a government commission, Les Villes de France Photographies, which focused on the landmarks of Paris in particular, such as the Pantheon. Similar in style to the frontal views of the Louvre pavilions, this image is a precursor to that project, and also includes Saint Etienne du Mont in its background. The Pantheon is one of Paris’ best-known landmarks, and was originally built as a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve. Looking out over the whole of the city, it is now a mausoleum that houses the remains of distinguished French citizens.

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Edouard Baldus
Arc de Caroussel
c. 1853
Salt print mounted on card
34.1 x 44.3 cms (13.40 x 17.41 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: signature of E.Baldus Lower right inscribed in negative: no.81 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E.Baldus Lower left bottom: Arc de Caroussel
Dimensions: Mount: 43.9 x 61 cms Image: 34.1 x 44.3 cms

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One of Baldus’ greatest projects was to provide a photographic inventory of the New Louvre and adjoing Tuilleries. A number of these works are of particular interest, expecially those of the Tuilleries Palace, which would be burnt down in 1870-1. All that remains today is the central triumphal arch, the Caroussel, which is depicted here, still with the palace visible in the background. Built between 1806 and 1808, the Arc de Caroussel is a monument commemorating Napolean’s military victories, with Peace riding a triumphal chariot atop the central archway. Two guards flank the sides of the arch, each atop their own horse, which not only provide for a sense of scale, but, being slightly blurred, also hint at the length of Baldus’ exposure. This enhances the effects of the delicately carved sculptures that adorn the archway, presented here with a clarity that defined the standard Baldus set with his architectural images.

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“James Hyman is proud to present a loan exhibition of one of the greatest photographers of the nineteenth century, Edouard Baldus. Remarkably, this is the first major exhibition of Edouard Baldus ever to be staged in London. Baldus was famed for his monumental photographs of the buildings of Paris at a time of massive transition under Napoleon III, Baron Haussman and Viollet Le Duc, as well as the depiction of the contemporary landscape of France. Acclaimed as the greatest architectural photographer of the nineteenth century, Baldus’s prints were some of the largest photographs in existence and pioneered an aesthetic of presenting modernity and the modern city that would have a profound influence on later photographers from the Bechers to John Davies.

Baldus was one of the great calotypists of the 1850s, producing works of an unprecedented range and scale. He moved to Paris in 1838 to study painting alongside other future photographers such as Le Gray, Le Secq, and Negre. He frequently retouched his paper negatives, adding pencil and ink, to add clouds or clarify details, then printing his own large-scale negatives. He was also adept at stitching several negatives together to re-create architectural views, most famously in his views of the cloisters of Saint Trophime.

Famed especially for his depiction of architecture, Baldus not only documented the modernisation of Paris but also travelled widely through France recording modernity and new construction – including new railways and aqueducts, as well as the building of the new Louvre. In 1851 the Commission des Monuments Historiques cited Baldus as one of the five best architectural photographers and he was commissioned to record the monuments of France for what became known as the Mission heliographic. His beginnings in photography are not well documented before his participation in the Mission heliographique, although it is known that he took photographs of Montmajour in 1849.

In 1852 he began Villes de France photographies to which the minister of Beaux-Arts subscribed until 1860. In 1854 he travelled with his student Petiot-Groffier in Auvergne and in 1855 the Baron James de Rothschild commissioned him to photograph the new Northern train line from Paris to Boulogne as a gift, in the form of a commemorative album, for Queen Victoria before her visit to the Exposition Universelle. Later, in his commission to document the reconstruction of the Louvre, Baldus took more than two thousand views in a period of three years. His last big commission was from 1861-1863 documenting the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean train line illustrating seventy views of the train’s track. After this, Baldus tried to provide more commercial alternatives to his large-format works, creating smaller prints and heliogravures of his earlier work. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful and Baldus passed away in bankruptcy and relative obscurity.”

Press release from the James Hyman website

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Colbert, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
43.2 x 34.1 cms (16.98 x 13.40 ins)
Stamped ‘E. Baldus’ on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Colbert Nouveau Louvre’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 43.2 x 34.1 cms

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Of the many photographs Baldus took of the Louvre during the period 1855-57, it is his large-format photographs of the main pavilions that best demonstrate the stretch of his artistic achievements. Commissioned by the French government once again, Baldus was charged with documenting every aspect of the new Palace’s construction, which was to be the Second Empire’s largest building project. Consequently, over the course of two years, it also evolved into the largest photographic commission to date, and Baldus took over two thousand photographs ranging in subject matter from individual statuary to the grand frontal views of each completed pavilion, such as this example of the Pavillon Colbert.

This particular photograph is an astounding example of the precision and clarity wet plate negatives afforded Baldus in capturing the texture of New Louvre’s stonework. Each part of the façade, from the temple relief statuary to the columns flanking the entryway, is bathed in a bright light that emphasises the three-dimensionality of the new pavilion. The sense of crisp stonework evident in this image is only heightened by the blurred tree in the bottom left corner, as well as the trace of a ghostly figure in the foreground – a horse and cart that paused long enough to be captured, just barely, in Baldus’ long exposure.

The subject of this picture brings to bear the importance of the symbolism of the architecture of the Nouveau Louvre for the reign of Napoleon III. The relief and figures on the façade of the Pavillon Colbert highlight France’s greatest realms of achievement, from the conquering of nature through to industry. The upmost relief represents Earth and Water, while the figures to either side personify Science and Industry. Baldus has also ensured that a human figure on the right-hand side of the central entrance has stood still long enough to provide the viewer with a sense of the imposing scale of the statuary, as well as the entire façade. The result is a striking image that is sharper than any contemporary enlargement, exemplary of Baldus’ ability to isolate and capture architecture while giving a slight hint to the life that continued to move around it.

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon de la Bibliotheque, Rue de Rivoli, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
43.2 x 34.3 cms (16.98 x 13.48 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 103’ in the negative, lower left. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Nouveau Louvre Rue Rivoli’
Dimensions Mount: 50.7 x 44 cms Image: 43.2 x 34.3 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Richelieu, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
45 x 34.5 cms (17.69 x 13.56 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 79’ in the negative, lower left and signed in the negative lower right ‘E. Baldus’ Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Richelieu Nouveau Louvre’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 45 x 34.5 cms

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An image that the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes as “among the most spectacular of all Baldus photographs,” it is clear that Baldus took full advantage of the opportunity to use larger equipment, which was necessary to capture his tremendous subject. The technical advantages afforded by glass plate negatives allowed him to create equally large contact prints without joining separate negatives, as was his practice with many of his earlier images. Here, the resulting photograph depicts the Pavillon Richelieu in a striking range of tonality, from the crisp texture of the street to the glowing reflection of the pavilion’s new tiled roof.

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Sully, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1857
Salt print mounted on card
44.5 x 34.5 cms (17.49 x 13.56 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 92’ in the negative, lower left. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Sully Nouveau Louvre’.
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 44 cms Image: 44.9 x 34.5 cms

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Baldus returned to this particular pavilion numerous times, his earliest images of the structure produced while he was photographing for the Mission Heliographique. The Pavillon Sully was originally built during the Classical Period of Louis XIV in 1625, and served as a model for the Second Empire additions. One of the grandest of all the completed facades, the Pavillon Sully acquired many sculputural additions during the reconstruction, but the central clock from which the pavilion derived its original name (Pavillon de l’Horloge) remained central.

Taking an elevated view, Baldus depicted the Pavillon Sully with exemplary precision that is sharper than any contemporary enlargement. The result is one of the most imposing images of the Nouveau Louvre pavilions, giving the entire façade a commanding sense of presence as it rises above trees in the foreground, which are just blurred enough to reveal Baldus’ long exposure.

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Edouard Baldus
Saint Etienne du Mont, Paris
c. 1858
Salt print mounted on card
44.1 x 34.2 cms (17.33 x 13.44 ins)
Stamped E Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘St Etienne du Mont’ Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 44.1 x 34.2 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Notre Dame, Facade Principale, Paris
1857
Salt print mounted on card
44.5 x 34.2 cms (17.49 x 13.44 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 34’ in the negative, lower right. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Notre Dame Facade Principal’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 44 cms Image: 44.5 x 34.2 cms

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This iconic image of Notre Dame embodies the direct and frontal style that came to define Baldus’ architectural images. Here, he has captured the majesty of one of Paris’ most notable landmarks by elevating his vantage point and placing the viewer at eye level with its magnificent rose window. This print is a carefully executed example of the type of balance and symmetry Baldus aimed to capture while working on this commission.

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James Hyman Gallery
16 Savile Row
London W1S 3PL
Telephone 020 7494 3857

Opening hours:
By appointment

James Hyman Gallery website

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18
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Lost Places. Sites of Photography’ at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 23rd September 2012

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“Fredric Jameson wrote that in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity. The personal computer culture began with small machines that captured a post-1960s utopian vision of transparent understanding. Today, the personal computer culture’s most compelling objects give people a way to think concretely about an identity crisis. In simulation, identity can be fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified, and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space.”

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Sherry Turkle 1

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As we navigate these (virtual) worlds a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified. In other words there is a split between referent and (un)known reality = a severance of meaning and its object.

“The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble.”2

Such is the case in these photographs. In their isolation each becomes the simulacra, the restaged models that are Thomas Demand’s photographs. That they do not allow any true reference to reality means that they become the image of memory in the present space. As the press release notes, “What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?”

Kenneth Gergen observes,

“The current texts of the self are built upon those of preceding eras, and they in turn upon more distant forms of discourse. In the end we have no way of “getting down to the self as it is.” And thus we edge toward the more unsettling question: On what grounds can we assume that beneath the layers of accumulated understandings there is, in fact, an obdurate “self” to be located? The object of understanding has been absorbed into the world of representations.”3

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So we return to the split between referent and reality, a severance of meaning and its object in representation itself. These photographs, our Self and our world are becoming artifacts of hyperreality, of unallocated (un/all/located) space in which a unitary self/world has always been “lost.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Hamburger Kunsthalle 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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Tobias Zielony (*1973)
Dirt Field
2008
(aus der Serie Trona – Armpit of America)
C-Print
56 x 84 cm
Sammlung Halke / Courtesy KOW, Berlin
© Tobias Zielony

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Beate Gütschow (*1970)
S#11
2005
Light Jet Print
180 x 232 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Beate Gütschow / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Alexandra Ranner (*1967)
Schlafzimmer II (Bedroom II)
2008
Installation, Holz, Teppich, Styrodur, 
Licht, Farbe
H: 240 cm, B: 500 cm, L: 960 cm
© Alexandra Ranner, Galerie Mathias 
Güntner, Hamburg / VG Bild-Kunst, 2012

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Sarah Schönfeld (*1979)
Wende-Gelände 01
2006
C-Print
122 x 150 cm
Privatsammlung / Courtesy Galerie 
Feldbuschwiesner, Berlin
© Sarah Schönfeld

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Guy Tillim (*1962)
Apartment Building, Avenue Bagamoyo, Beira, Mozambique
2008
(aus der Serie Avenue Patrice Lumumba)
Pigmentdruck auf Papier, kaschiert auf Aluminium
91.5 x 131.5 cm
Guy Tillim / Courtesy Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin und Stevenson, Cape Town
© Guy Tillim

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Jeff Wall (*1946)
Insomnia
1994
Cibachrome in Leuchtkasten (Plexiglas, 
Aluminium, Leuchtröhren)
174 x 214 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Jeff Wall

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“In recent years, photography has reached a new peak in artistic media. Starting with the Düsseldorf School, with artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff or Candida Höfer, a young generation of artists developed that adopted different approaches by which to present the subject-matter of “space” and “place” in an era of historic change and social crises. With the exhibition Lost Places, the Hamburger Kunsthalle art museum dedicates itself to these new approaches, which document a wide range of different places and living spaces and their increasing isolation through the media of photography, film and installation works.

Joel Sternfeld’s documentary photographs depict places that were crime scenes. Thomas Demand restages real crime scenes, initially as models in order to then photograph them. In turn, in her large-scale photographs, Beate Gütschow constructs cityscapes and landscapes that are reminiscent of well-known places, but that do not allow any true reference. Sarah Schönfeld illustrates “the image of memory in the present space” in her photographs. She visits old places from her GDR childhood and captures these in their present state, whereby both points in time collide. In his fictional video installation Nostalgia, Omer Fast recounts the story of illegal immigrants from three different perspectives.

In his book The collective memory, French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out the significance of “spatial images” for the memory of social communities. Today the reliable spatial contextualisation of objects and memories (also due to digital photography) is under threat, hence this pretence begins to crumble. What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?

The exhibition comprises about 20 different approaches of contemporary photography and video art with many loans from museums and private collections. The exhibition features the following artists: Thomas Demand (*1964), Omer Fast (*1972), Beate Gütschow (*1970), Andreas Gursky (*1955), Candida Höfer (*1944), Sabine Hornig (*1964), Jan Köchermann (1967), Barbara Probst (*1964), Alexandra Ranner (*1967), Ben Rivers (*1972), Thomas Ruff (*1958), Gregor Schneider (*1969), Sarah Schönfeld (*1979), Joel Sternfeld (*1944), Thomas Struth (*1954), Guy Tillim (*1962), Jörn Vanhöfen (*1961), Jeff Wall (*1946) and Tobias Zielony (*1973).”

Press release from the Hamburger Kunsthalle website

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Thomas Struth (*1954)
Times Square, New York
2000
C-Print
140,2 x 176,2 cm
Courtesy Thomas Struth, Berlin
© Thomas Struth

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Jörn Vanhöfen (*1961)
Asok #797
2010
C-Print auf Aluminium
122 x 147 cm
© Jörn Vanhöfen, courtesy: Kuckei + Kuckei, 
Berlin

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Thomas Demand (*1964)
Haltestelle
2009
C-Print / Diasec
240 x 330 cm
Thomas Demand, Berlin
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Thomas Demand (*1964)
Parlament
2009
C-Print / Diasec
180 x 223 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie 2010 
erworben durch die Stiftung des Vereins der 
Freunde der Nationalgalerie für zeitgenössische Kunst
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Tobias Zielony (*1973)
Vela Azzurra
2010
(aus der Serie Vele)
C-Print
150 x 120 cm
Tobias Zielony / Courtesy und KOW, Berlin und Lia Rumma, Neapel
© Tobias Zielony

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Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Sáo Paulo Sé
2002
C-Print, Plexiglas
286 x 206 cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ 
VG Bild-Kunst, 2012

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Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Ohne Titel XIII (Mexico)
2002
Photographie
276 x 206 cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ VG 
Bild-Kunst, 2012

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1. Turkle, Sherry. Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p.49.

2. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p.85.

3. Gergen, Kenneth. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Harper Collins, 1991, pp.121-122.

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Hamburger Kunsthalle
Glockengießerwall 20095
Hamburg
T: +49 (0) 40 – 428 131 200

Opening Hours:
Tuesdays to Sundays 10 am – 6 pm
Thursdays 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Hamburger Kunsthalle website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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