Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978 - 2010

Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010, opened at London's Whitechapel Gallery last Wednesday, the first UK survey of German artist Thomas Struth, one of the most important photographers of the late 20th century.

Picturing subjects as diverse as places of worship, jungles and research laboratories, Struth once compared the space shuttle programme to the construction of the medieval cathedrals. His photographs reveal the cultural, psychological and historical undercurrents beneath the surface of modernity.
Tracing the architectural history of ordinary city streets Struth also charts the increasing uniformity of global development. While people are absent from his street scenes of Düsseldorf, Naples or New York, they take centre stage in his family portraits and his iconic museum photographs showing spectators lost in devotional gaze before works of art and architecture. In sharp contrast, his Paradise series captures impenetrable forests void of any trace of human intervention.
This exhibition spans early black and white prints to recent colour photographs that are up to 4 metres long. These include images of sites at the cutting edge of technology such as the Space Centre on Cape Canaveral. Their overwhelming scale evokes an industrial sublime; built by us, yet chillingly inhuman, these structures encapsulate the great contradictions of progress.

The photograph: Audience 1, Florence 2004

Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London

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