May 6, 2008 - Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) - Lothar Baumgarten
May 6, 2008

Lothar Baumgarten

La Bandera, 2002.
Copyright: Lothar Baumgarten,
VEGAP, Barcelona, 2008

Lothar Baumgarten.
autofocus retina

Until 15 June 2008

Produced by:
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Plaça dels Angels, 1
08001 Barcelona

This monographic exhibition by Lothar Baumgarten, while not considering itself to be a retrospective, includes photographic works, sculpture, projection, wall drawings, books and film from the late 1960s to the present day—some of which is adapted in situ to the architectural conditions of the MACBA.

Autofocus retina is the name of this presentation, but it is also the title of configuration consisting of four diamond shaped mirrors connoting the diafragma of a camera lens, its photographic eye. Chromatic and geometric compositions are set within the more singular places in the museum, where architectural space is understood as if it were a blank page. Imago Mundi (L’autre et L’ailleurs), (1988/2008), a piece which transforms the museum’s glass facade into a prism and explores the pretension of photographic language to establish itself as a universal truth. Reflected and mirrored as a sundial on the museum interior, it is based on and reflects the Kodak printed-matter colour-separation chart Print your own colour patches.

Baumgarten is the author of a decisive photographic oeuvre and this exhibition displays two extended series of single and combined photographs —Carbon (1989) and Montaigne (1977–85)— together with three projection pieces: Unsettled Objects (1968–69), Ecce Homo (2002), and Fragment Brazil (1977–2005). In Carbon Baumgarten’s investigation is based on the description of the continent’s widespread railway system and its decrepit industrial infrastructure (which is often a masterpiece of engineering) implanted in vernacular locations within an ever-changing traffic and trading area. Carbon visualizes the complex and hybrid North-American landscape and the pragmatism of its use by industrial society today.

The presentation of the gelatin-silver prints of Carbon is combined with three out of sixteen typographical wall drawings, set in the typeface Franklin Gothic, which combine the names of North-American railroad companies. In their graphic configurations they reflect on the engineering structures of bridges, tracks and semaphores. Six vitrines are displayed with drawings and layout materials from the book Carbon and give an inside view of its production. The concept and typography of this masterpiece were created with the collaboration of Walter Nikkels.

Montaigne, Terra Incognita (1977–85) is named after Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. Once again, Baumgarten associates the objectivity of the photograph with its impossibility to transmit essential sensations in the comprehension of an event. Single photographs go to form triptychs or five-part compositions, thus constructing the content of each particular piece. Words or names and colour bars appear on the mats of the prints, giving a whiff of time and the aroma of the place.

These series move the problems of photography forward and confronts the artist’s position with the objectivist traditions that dominate the current panorama of the medium. Truth, for the artist, is not the adaptation of an idea to the reality of an object, but rather the involvement of the subject who knows.

Termite Savanna (1969) is an ephemeral sculpture that makes the process of time manifest and visible through its materialisation. It is in constant change. It features horizons cut into wooden planks, pigments, light bulbs, cables and exercise books with drawings under pigeon feathers form the body of a landscape, that of La Gran Sabana. This piece was created long before Baumgarten worked in South America.

In the Capella dels Àngels Ecce Homo (2002) combines geometric and chromatic elements with projected images. It reflects on Walter Benjamin’s Passagen Werk. The photographic survey took place in the medieval Tuscan towns of Montalcino and San Giminiano and the landscape of Crete.

This exhibition is, in fact, a notation in images, not unlike a musical score.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
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