National Gallery of Art "Photography Reinvented" Exhibition Features Düsseldorf School Artists
Thomas Struth, "Alte Pinakothek, Self-Portrait, Munich 2000", 2000, chromogenic print
(© Thomas Struth)
The story of the National Gallery of Art’s stunning “Photography Reinvented” exhibition, on view through March 5, 2017, in the recently reopened East Building, begins in Munich at the Pinakothek der Moderne.
It was there, in 2004, that Rheda Becker first encountered a captivating self-portrait by German art photographer Thomas Struth. Eschewing conventional approaches to self-depiction, Struth enters the frame only as a blurred form seen from behind. Front and center is Albrecht Dürer’s famed Self-Portrait from 1500, on display nearby at Munich’s Alte Pinakothek.
Startled by Struth’s approach and delighted by his inquiry into the relationship between the viewer and the artwork in the museum, Becker later mentioned her experience to partner Robert E. Meyerhoff. Also familiar with the work, having seen it in New York, he sought to acquire Struth’s Alte Pinakothek, Self-Portrait, Munich 2000.
Thus began Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker’s impassioned collecting of 35 contemporary photographs by 19 artists, the basis of the present exhibition.
The Düsseldorf School
Enlarge image Bernd and Hilla Becher, "Water Towers, 1972-2009", nine gelatin silver prints. Promised Gift from the Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker (© Courtesy National Gallery of Art) While no single thread ties together all of the works in the show, certain trends emerge. First, the prints are nearly all accomplished on a large or very large scale, in sharp focus and brilliant color. In an age of small screens, these works are potent reminders of how impactful photography at a completely different scale can be.
One of today’s most celebrated art photographers, Struth, with eight prints on view, is the best represented artist. The exhibition includes works from his Museum Photographs, Places of Worship, and Family Portraits series.
Another trend is the inclusion of many works by Struth’s fellow Düsseldorf school photographers—artists influenced by the seminal works and teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher, professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. These artists, including Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky, and Thomas Ruff, collectively play with the persistent question underlying the medium of photography itself: is it a tool for faithfully documenting reality, or a means of adapting it to the artist’s vision?
The answer offered by the works in this exhibition, by Düsseldorf School artists and others, is that photography can simultaneously serve as document and dissertation. Reality is mutable, things are not always as they seem, and there is always more than meets the eye.
By Jacob Comenetz, Cultural Affairs Officer, German Embassy Washington
September 30, 2016 – March 5, 2017
East Building, Upper Level - West Bridge