Big Names at Last

On my quest to find some big names in photography, I finally struck lucky – against all expectations. I had bought a ticket for the Bremen Kunsthalle in order to see Lynn Hershman Leeson. Well, *yawn*. And then I stumbled over Ruff, Hockney, Parr and Tillmanns. Who would have thought, provincial Germany has multi-million Euro photography in its portfolio?
The Düsseldorf school of photography was well-represented in this exhibition – both in the shape of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s documentary photography of industrial architecture, as well as in their students. Thomas Ruff’s image “Substrat 18 1“, for instance, absolutely blew me away. I am attracted by the softly rounded, organic shapes on the image. I love the strong colours. Abstracts like this invite the viewer to think – but they do not force him to do so. You can happily lean back and simply enjoy the colours and the shapes without wasting a thought on the “why”. BUT a couple of ugly questions raise their heads: Is this photography? Ruff never took a single picture himself for the series “Substratum”. He downloaded existing images of Japanese anime characters from the internet and then manipulated them. They are prints of digital files. But are they his if they are originating from someone else’s work? – Easy answer: With a big name as his, he probably does not have to fear accusations of plagiarism. And the image is still interesting to look at, so who gives a cr*p???
David Hockney’s well-known “Brooklyn Bridge” was goosepimple inducing. Well to me it was, because I like Hockney’s attempts at what I perceive as a photographic cubism. Multi-perspective reality in a photograph. Impossible by definition – but artistically and even philosophically, intriguing…
Martin Parr’s kitsched-up and colourful representation of (some) British life is – as usual – funny and at the same time exposes the (lower middle?) class sense of self with peach-pastelly artificial roses on summer hats and greasy donuts in chubby toddler hands.
A classy exhibition. Well done, Kunsthalle!
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