These once precious and symbolically charged objects have gradually given way to everyday objects. Meanwhile, perfume bottles, marbles, soft candy, hair shampoo, Starbucks cups, and pizza boxes are the objects of today’s still lifes. The traditionally picturesque subject is currently experiencing a renaissance in contemporary photography, breaking down the distinctions between artistically arranged still life on the one hand and commercial product photography on the other.
Even artists of the 1920s and ’30s such as Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy or Florence Henri experimented with the camera in a studio setting and created new forms of still life that were used as both artistic and advertising photos. Hans Hansen, whose exhibition entitled Still Life is being shown in dialogue with Optical Illusions . Contemporary Still Life, successfully continued this approach from the 1970s on as artistic product photography. Today, advertising and product photography belong to the visuals of everyday life in our digitized society, once again making the still life an attractive genre for young artists. In this way, artistic arrangements beyond the depicted subject are examined: new technical possibilities are explored, visual codes are reduced to absurdity, and our habits of thinking and perception are investigated in a time in which making and publishing pictures has become commonplace for nearly everyone.
The exhibition Optical Illusions . Contemporary Still Life curated by Ann-Christin Bertrand at C/O Berlin will present four artistic positions through the works of Lucas Blalock, Annette Kelm, Antje Peters, and Oskar Schmidt that do not just reassess the genre in a media sense, but rather also bring it up to date artistically. They all share an impressive precision and strict methodical formalization and use them to dissolve artistic conventions. By using both the rhetorics and aesthetics of everyday photography and at the same time questioning the mechanisms for the creation of photographic images, they open new spaces of thought and perception and readdress the differing conditions of digital image production and the aesthetic norms of photography.
The American artist Lucas Blalock demonstrates the work process behind photographic images in his pieces. Equally interested in both the history and in the possibilities of photography, he first uses classical studio photography with an analog large-format camera, and then scans the negatives and processes them digitally. However, instead of disguising these digital work processes, he leaves them perceivable, creating unique hybrid forms between classic object representations and their total alienation. In this way, his works reflect not only contemporary production methods of photographic images, but rather always also the viewing and the high complexity of photographic reality.