With works by Carina Brandes, Will McBride, Tom Callemin, Johanna Daab, Thomas Florschuetz, Ryan McGinley, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Rachel de Joode, Herlinde Koelbl, Vera Lehndorff & Holger Trülzsch, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Bob Mizer, László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Pfeiffer, Christian Schad, Camille Vivier, and a performance by PVSSY HEAVEN.
Can the human body become abstract? Can the nonconcrete evoke sensuality? In its juxtaposition of nude images and non-figurative photographs facing questions the relationship between abstraction and materiality.
The show traces this central motif throughout twelve decades of photographic history. The selection made by artist Ingo Mittelstaedt and Stephan Koal includes iconic images by László Moholy-Nagy, Robert Mapplethorpe and Herlinde Koelbl as well as exceptional works by less well-known artists. At its heart, the exhibition explores the potential synergies between formal aesthetics and mimetic approaches to photography.
The process of artistic representation is essentially always one of abstraction: the forms, colours and textures of the material world create a reservoir of meanings that make the emotional reception of artworks possible in the first place, but also simultaneously restrict that response by giving a culturally defined framework of interpretation.
By bringing together concrete images of bodies with abstract formal worlds, facing develops new hybrid patterns of interpretation and experience. The figurative dissolves into lines and surfaces whilst formerly non-referential compositions morph into organic shapes. Their objective rigour challenges archaic associations of nudity; erotic physique is charged with rational metaphysis. The human body becomes pictorial, the site of projecting disembodiedness.
This ambivalence of perception is inherent to photography - a discipline that holds a special place in the canon of fine art. As a means of technical reproduction photography is attributed a certain soullessness whilst at the same time being ascribed magical qualities. Photography has the power to capture moments that the human eye cannot and so transcends the pure depiction of visible reality.
Most of the nude images on show are impressions of a moment: youthful bodies lost in reverie whose sensual hedonism relates to the temporal dimension of photography, the fixing of transience. Juxtaposing them with abstract images enhances the hermeneutic dimension of figurative representations by engaging with the particularities of the photographic medium that are central to the analysis of cultural processes in the digital age.
Text by Diana Weis / 2016