Bernd and Hilla Becher

Installation photograph of framed prints on gallery walls

For over thirty years, Bernd and Hilla Becher have exhibited serenely beautiful and slightly elegiac photographs of such often over-looked industrial structures such as water towers, gas tanks and blast furnaces. Systematically, they have formed a catalog of “anonymous sculpture,” and in so doing have raised a lively visual query as to the actual relationship between form and function. Through each of the individual series it is apparent that the Bechers are intrigued with the metaphoric quirks of architecture, just as much as they dote on its typological, repetitive characteristics. The Bechers are not especially interested in geographic differences, but rather in tension between uniformity and individuality that is found in functional structures.

Taken in overcast skies or in the hazy sunlight of industrial zones, these seemingly artless photographs belie the elaborate processes and decisions involved in creating them — elevating the camera on scaffolds or ladders, waiting for clouds to block the sun, enlisting the cooperation of plant foremen and security guards to remove all signs of human life from the scene. The resulting images are presented as either individual 24×20” black and white prints or as part of a typology comprised of varying numbers of photographs presented in a grid-like format. Included in the present exhibition will be typologies dealing with coal mine tipples of Pennsylvania (this piece comes directly from its recent exhibition in “Photography in Contemporary German Art” at the Guggenheim Museum, Soho); spherical and cylindrical gas tanks; and industrial facades.

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