About the work

WOLFGANG TILLMANS

ABOUT THE WORK


    WOLFGANG TILLMANS
     Untitled (Las Vegas), 2000
Inkjet print
327,7 x 268 cm
The picture appears to be a snapshot taken out of the window of an aeroplane coming in or taking off from the rapidly expanding desert city Las Vegas. It looks casual but Tillmans has probably, as usual, carefully selected the time and place for this picture.

He often photographs landscapes from above, making us see more overall structures present in the emerging abstraction of the picture. For instance the city's shining grid is a clear contrast to the organic formations of the mountains and the clouds.

The colours too allow Tillmans to work with juxtapositions: the dominant yet subdued greyish green tint is set against the dynamic and haphazard bright lines in the picture.

A COSMOPOLITAN'S WORLD VIEW
Untitled (Las Vegas) is an example of Tillmans' interest in the everyday life of young cosmopolitans across the globe, whether flying in to Copenhagen, Berlin or Las Vegas. Still the photograph is poetic and majestic; Tillmans has deliberately picked a moment and a section that presents the otherwise chaotic and sparkling metropolis as a beautiful example of manmade landscapes.

By adding the glowing traces and blots Tillman underscores the aesthetic and abstract qualities of the picture. Photography may start out as a slice of life but the finished picture, like any other picture, is carefully composed and aestheticised. The gleaming lines turn our attention to photography as a medium rather than the actual photograph.

THE UNSEEN MADE SEEN
Tillmans aestheticises the everyday and the trivial through the eyes of a young cosmopolitan, wishing to show the beauty of the banal. More often than not his subjects are anything but pure, appetising and glamorous but via the interpretation of the photograph they become so. An attempt to gather the present and the plainly experienced in one picture characterises Tillman's approach to photography. In this manner he demonstrates photography's ability to reproduce a physical presence, be it a person, an item of clothing, a city or a glowing line across the surface of the negative.

Wolfgang Tillmans' art in general
Tillmans photographs an abundance of subjects, still lifes with fruit, portraits, everyday objects, landscapes, interiors; some of them snapshots, others meticulously arranged in classical compositions. The pictures alternate between colourful photographs with glossy surfaces (cibachrome) and cheap prints (inkjet) which Tillmans exhibit together. Typically a work comprises several pictures, mixing genres and print types, thus creating unorthodox, aesthetic juxtapositions.

Tillman's work constitutes a form of visual poetry, confronting the everyday and the aesthetics of the real with conventional definitions of beauty. Its meaning emerges in the combination of the different subjects and genres, and it can be read as a modern vanitas picture. Common to the disparate pictures is Tillman’s focus on physical presence, be it the folds and texture of clothes, the texture of fruit or an ostensibly trivial humdrum existence.

GENRE DEFIANCE
To Tillmans lifestyle, art and fashion are inextricably linked, and he often photographs his friends from the gay subculture. From the very beginning his pictures were a blend of fashion, portrait and art photography, an attempt to break down the traditional barriers between the genres. Therefore his works often have an acutely personal expression, permitting a glimpse of his private life. This focus on the everyday, presented in an anti-aesthetic, snapshot-like form, was a general trend in the 1990s: artists explored reality and banal, familiar idioms in a style resembling sociological and ethnographical inquiries.

REALITY AS IMAGE
In Tillmans' recent works his formal interest has become more pronounced. His photographs have become more abstract and, evident in Untitled (Las Vegas), a mixture of snapshot photography and darkroom experiments. Here Tillmans has exposed the negative to light and otherwise manipulated the original subject so that the photograph no longer simply depicts reality but is an image in its own right.

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