June 20–September 8, 2013
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Römerberg, D-60311 Frankfurt
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–7pm;
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Beginning June 20, 2013, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is hosting the first European survey of the oeuvre of US photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Born in 1951, diCorcia is one of the most important and influential contemporary photographers. His images oscillate between everyday elements and arrangements that are staged down to the smallest detail. In his works, seemingly realistic images that are taken with an ostensibly documentary eye are undermined by their highly elaborate orchestration. One of the primary issues that diCorcia addresses is the question of whether it is possible to depict reality, and this is what links his photographs, most of which he creates as series. For Hustlers (1990–1992), for example, he took pictures of male prostitutes in meticulously staged settings; while in what is probably his most famous series, Heads (2000–2001), he captured an instant in the everyday lives of unsuspecting passersby. Alongside the series Streetwork (1993–1999), Lucky 13 (2004) and A Storybook Life (1975–1999), the exhibition at the Schirn, which was organized in close collaboration with the artist, will also present works from his new and ongoing East of Eden (2008–) project for the first time.
The extensive exhibition features six series comprising a total of 124 works, beginning with the most recent photographs from the ongoing series East of Eden to diCorcia’s earliest works to A Storybook Life (1975–1999). The extensive collection of portraits, landscapes, interiors, still lifes, snapshots, and travel photographs outlines a period of artistic work spanning more than twenty years. Only the titles of the images provide information about the date the pictures were taken and the respective location.
For the Hustlers series (1990–1992), diCorcia shot photographs of male prostitutes along Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. The artist carefully staged the protagonists’ positions as well as the setting and the accompanying lighting.
The streets of New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Mexico City, or Los Angeles are the setting for diCorcia’s Streetwork series. Produced between 1993 and 1999, passersby walk into the artist’s photo trap on their way home, to work, to the gym, or to the grocery store, unsuspectingly passing through diCorcia’s arranged photoflash system. The photographer releases the shutter at a certain moment, “freezing” it in time.
The artist heightens this focus on the individual in his subsequent series, Heads (2000–2001), for which he selected seventeen heads out of a total of some three thousand photographs. The viewer’s gaze is directed toward the face of the passerby, who are moved into the center of the image by means of the lighting and the pictorial detail. The rest remains in shadowy darkness.
The painterly quality of diCorcia’s photographs, which is produced by means of dramatic lighting, becomes particularly evident in the series Lucky 13 (2004). The artist captures the athletic, naked bodies of pole dancers in the midst of a falling motion. The women achieve a sculptural plasticity by means of the strong lighting and the almost-black background, and seem to have been chiseled in stone.
DiCorcia also includes a religious element in his most recent works, the series East of Eden, a work in progress that is being published for the first time in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. Besides the biblical inspiration, which the title underscores, a literary connection can furthermore be made to the eponymous novel by John Steinbeck, which relates the story of Cain and Abel in the form of an American family saga set between the period of the Civil War and World War I.
DiCorcia deals intensely with the motif of the figure in his oeuvre. His compact compositions are marked by a non-dialogue between people and their environment or between individual protagonists. The motifs captured in compositional variations in most of the series feature painterly qualities. Subtly arranged and falling back on a complex orchestration of the lighting, the visual worlds created by the American manifest social realities in an almost poetic way. The emotionally and narratively charged works are complex nexuses of iconographic allusions to and depictions of contemporary American society.
Director: Max Hollein
Curator: Katharina Dohm