The Ever-Protean Wolfgang Tillmans, Cassie Packard, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [22/11/2022]Marilena Pateraki
A long-awaited survey at Museum of Modern Art, New York finds the artist looking both outward – to the world’s constituent elements – and inward to photography itself
Wolfgang Tillmans is boiling peas in the kitchen of his erstwhile East London studio. The camera is fixed on the pot, and as it simmers the puckered green spheres rise and fall, whirl and crest; temporary allegiances forming fluidly as they surge, disperse and re-aggregate in new configurations, evoking a social organism. The muffled calls of a Pentecostal preacher across the street filter in from beyond the frame, periodically ebbing and dissolving into steam. The 2:42 minute-long video Peas (2003), one of 417 works on view in the German artist’s ecstatically sprawling MoMA survey, offers a meditation on the beauty – spirituality, even – of everyday life as it highlights the broader networks of exchange, community and place in which such activities are sited. There is tenderness and gravity to this kind of beholding, perhaps particularly when what – or whom – is being beheld is routinely dismissed societally as insignificant.
Tillmans’s constitutional sensitivity, which we might call attunement, is among the unifying threads of the wildly disparate photographs, videos and mixed media installations on view here. The long-awaited exhibition, organised loosely chronologically, spans more than three decades of the artist’s practice, from the greyscale, increasingly closeup photocopies that were his entrée into photography during the mid-1980s – skyscrapers along Sixth Avenue disintegrate into diagonal lines – to a music video for a 19-track album he produced last year, featuring rhythmic vignettes focused on sundry subjects: a gymnastic routine, hermit crabs, a scanbed. The show has no fealty to genre; portraits of friends, lovers, strangers and occasional celebrities are interspersed with still lifes, appropriated media imagery, nudes, cameraless abstractions, landscapes and skyscapes. Queer youth subculture and nightlife are long-standing touchstones for Tillmans, whose photographs on these topics began gracing the pages of magazines like i-D and Purple during the 1990s. (Taken at the velvety edge of visibility and conceiving of the club as a space of intimate togetherness and radical possibility, his nightlife images from this period are particularly striking.) Yet he likewise turns his lens on subjects as varied, random and inevitably interconnected as photographic apparatuses, celestial bodies, mass media, technologies of travel, fashion, mass protests, architecture, and, and, and…
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