Thomas Struth: Photographs, a small exhibition currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presents a sampling of its subject’s modes: his well-known Museum Photographs, portraits, architectural photographs, and large color works. Taken as a whole like this, Struth’s photographs appear completely focused on geometry and lacking in movement, emotion, and flair. A deeper impression of his body of work is diminished by the survey nature of the exhibition, which presents just a few examples of each style, and by the choice to place pieces according to an inscrutable curatorial logic, neither chronologically nor thematically. The Museum Photographs series suffers particularly, appearing less humanistic when placed adjacent to Struth’s extremely geometrical architectural pictures.
Struth’s work, while not entirely cold, is essentially lonely. The Streets of New York (1978), comprised of 12 black-and-white prints, is a series of brutally repetitive shots of roads; Struth centers the empty space, and buildings act as additional frames on either side. These New York City streets are almost entirely devoid of warm bodies, the presence of humanity only alluded to by cars. The exhibition text cites the influence of Struth’s professors Bernd and Hilla Becher, and indeed, purely formally, one can see their impact in terms of geometry; however, the Bechers mostly photographed architecture as objects, in a way that precludes the expectation of bodies. In contrast, the lack of people in Struth’s New York City is unexpected and lonely.
Unfortunately, the show’s wall texts do not, on the whole, offer specific enough explications to foreground a humanistic interpretation. For example, the text for “Pantheon, Rome” (1990), one of the Museum Photographs, offers the following logic: “The viewer become self-reflexively aware of one’s own act of looking, and this relationship becomes a viable model for actively reshaping one’s own relationship to the seemingly intractable problems of the present moment.” The same could be said of much photography; this explanation doesn’t allude to the unique feeling of monumental loneliness that Struth’s pictures conjure.
Struth’s eye may be most interesting when trained on living subjects. “Figure 2, Charité, Berlin” (2013) shows an anesthetized woman lying on an operating table. She’s attached to a seemingly endless number of sensors and wires — geometry and technology feel threatening, the subject’s humanity completely overpowered. And in “Paradise 13, Yakushima, Japan” (1999), a forest’s bewildering tangle of foliage is captured by Struth’s centered, calm lens, a moving example of how a photograph can silence the messiness of life.
Photographs includes works that expressly demonstrate Struth’s facility with color. The infinite variations of blues, greens, and grays in “Hot Rolling Mill, ThyssenKrupp Steel, Duisburg” (2010) are illuminated by a few, delicately captured light sources. In “Tien An Men, Beijing” (1997), the red of Communist China is offset by multiple muted shades of gray that seem appropriate to the historical tragedy of the setting.
The exhibition provides a good basic introduction to Struth. But it would have been more insightful with a thematic arrangement of the works and wall texts that interpret his photographs, which feel so easily aloof, in novel ways.
At a time when many Black artists turned to figuration, Gilliam harnessed the power of abstraction, freeing the canvas from its support.
The artist’s portrait of her mother, painted in 1977 and reproduced on the vaporetti of Venice, may be one of the most evocative artworks in the Biennale.
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
A new box set of four of the Iranian director’s features offers a great opportunity to get to know his singular style.
It’s not a “greatest hits” show, or a comprehensive survey; rather, it is a starting point to reconsider an expansive vision of Chicana/o art.
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
“I’m focused on contemporary Native American stories, the modern-day ups and downs of that lifestyle, but I’m not trying to do it in a traditional manner,” the award-winning filmmaker told Hyperallergic in an interview.
The Tweet comparing an ominous screen capture from the Tucker Carlson Show to one of Holzer’s Truisms is being sold as an NFT to benefit crucial organizations in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
Shows at the Hudson Valley’s Hessel Museum of Art feature artists Dara Birnbaum and Martine Syms, as well as new scholarship on Black melancholia as an artistic and critical practice.
Rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Pérez was sentenced to nine years.
On the day of the Supreme Court’s decision to undo 50 years of constitutional rights to abortion, artist Elana Mann’s “protest rattles” feel especially poignant and urgent.
This week, Title IX celebrates 50 years, the trouble with pronouns, a writer’s hilarious response to plagiarism allegations, and much more.