From 20 February 2002 to 20 May 2002
Born in Remscheid, Germany in 1968, Wolfgang Tillmans began showing his work in the mid-1990’s and soon became one of the most significant artists of the decade.
Today he lives and works in London. This exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli, the second venue in a European tour that began at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, provides an overall view of his entire oeuvre, with particular attention to his most recent production.
Tillmans’ early works, when he was barely out of adolescence, were experiments with photocopies, soon followed in the early 1980’s by photographs that convey the atmosphere of youth cultures of the period, portraying typical personalities and life styles.
Tillmans both published images in magazines tied to that world and installed his works in exhibitions, intentionally avoiding clear distinctions between the different forms of dissemination of his work-magazines, books and actual shows. In fact, all Tillmans’ work is grounded on the possibility of reproduction and replication through a wide variety of media.
His photographs significantly never have a single format but range from the smallest scale to, particularly recently, gigantic dimensions, decidedly beyond the standards of photographic reproduction.
For his exhibitions, images are often repeated in varying formats, contradicting the concept of the unique work, while the extreme freedom of the installations testifies to his interest in the work of art as an uninterrupted proliferation of images that occupy space in the most unforeseen ways.
In his early works, the artist’s favorite subjects were boys and girls captured in everyday activities at home, or photographed in erotic effusions, or in group settings such as nightclubs or the streets of large Western cities. These works made the rounds of the world, and Tillmans was celebrated asthe bard of his generation and its existential dreams. However, the work that followed has demonstrated that the artist’s curiosity embraces many other facets of reality.
Tillmans’ eye is particularly inclined to capture with surprising precision the most unassuming phenomena of everyday life – still lifes of flowers, fruit, banal objects casually collected on tables or window sills, jeans and T-shirts spread out to dry atop radiators, ironic hints at sexuality. This is accompanied by a commitment to issues beyond the art world, as Tillmans also develops images in support of political themes such as gay rights, the struggle against racism or the defense of the natural environment.
More recently, an interest in the rules of perception that govern the construction of photography has inspired Tillmans to focus his attention on images that verge on geometric schemes, as in the case of his “views from above”, created in recent years and so numerous that the artist has used this title for the catalogue that accompanies this exhibition.
Everywhere and anywhere – in cities and farmland shot from an airplane, streets, ‘piazzas’ and other urban spaces photographed from high vantage points, the star-filled sky and clouds, and even the rippled surface of the water of a pool – Tillmans seeks and finds a visual scheme that is almost abstract but remains tied to the changing reality of phenomena. He finally achieves true abstraction beginning in 2ooo, through formal choices executed using a completely manual procedure. The large blotches, stripes and grids that we see floating above Tillmans’ recent large photographs are the result of work carried out entirely in the darkroom, without the mediation of a camera, solely through the interaction of light-sensitive paper and light. The visual scheme, even one that describes micro-structures (the colored fine dust of the Blushes series, for example,) is exposed by the large dimensions and by ink-jet printing processes, which is the artist’s chosen means for enlarging the images without losing anything of their strong chromatic richness.
In Tillmans’ universe these abstract works coexist with other figurative pictures such as the most recent large color portraits, that assume an almost classical composure.