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Nachtstilleben (Night Still Life)
Nachtstilleben (Night Still Life), 2011 (negative); 2013 (print)
Wolfgang Tillmans, German (active London)
Chromogenic print
Image and sheet: 53 1/8 × 79 3/4 inches (134.9 × 202.6 cm)
Purchased with funds contributed by the Committee for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, 2013
2013-48-1
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In Dialogue: Wolfgang Tillmans
July 1, 2014 - October 26, 2014
Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968) uses photography to explore the nature of pictures while looking at the contemporary world with a perceptive, nonjudgmental eye. He emerged in the 1990s as a photographer of the youthful European counterculture in which he was a participant. Since that time, he has drawn revelatory connections among disparate kinds of photographs, from arresting images of the social world to ethereal darkroom abstractions to photocopies.

In 2013 the Museum acquired its first work by Tillmans, a large color photograph entitled Nachtstilleben (Night Still Life). This exhibition places works by artists including Andy Warhol, Thomas Demand, and Gerhard Richter in dialogue with Night Still Life and seven additional photographs by Tillmans. The conversations these objects foster highlight processes of transformation: of paper, light, and chemicals into a photograph; of the three-dimensional world into a flat image; and of an image into a meaningful picture. They also illuminate how exploration of the abstract qualities of the photographic medium can coexist with keenly sensual description of the physical world.

Exhibition Minutes

In Dialogue: Wolfgang Tillmans

What do a black-and-white image of ripe fruit and Wolfgang Tillmans’s monumental color photograph of a cluttered windowsill have in common with Old Master still lifes? Exhibition curator Nathaniel Stein shares his thoughts.

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More works in the exhibition
At first glance, the central photograph of the exhibition, Night Still Life, appears to be a snapshot of mundane objects. Yet, it is held together by a sophisticated structure of form and color and by the symbolic language of the still-life genre. Tillmans explores a creative equilibrium between two supposedly contradictory practices: free, unmannered looking at the world and virtuosic picture-making shaped by knowledge of the history of art. Night Still Life is part of a large and rewarding body of work in which Tillmans has posed deeply intelligent questions about photography while making pictures of unconventional beauty.

Curator

Nathaniel Stein, Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography

Location

Julien Levy Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building

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