One of the most radical changes in art’s relation to its aesthetic, media, and economic contexts is closely associated with the names Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, and Thomas Struth – but even more so with the names of their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher. This group of artists – to which names like Volker Döhne, Tata Ronkholz and Petra Wunderlich should be added – formed the first of a long line of ‘Becher Classes’ at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.
“Photographs Become Pictures. The Becher Class” brings together over 150 major works, some in large format, by these important artists, as well as a selection of their early works. This generation not only shaped the international photography scene of the 1990s, they went one further, and helped to transform the way artistic photography is perceived. Their visual creations make arguments in both formal and conceptual terms, interrogating human beings in their natural and cultural habitat, investigating their immediate surroundings and their private and global dimensions, examining their principles of social and aesthetic organisation. For all the heterogeneity of these artists’ work, their oeuvres are always characterised by an ambivalent relation to painting, shifting between appropriation and differentiation. Their works are an expression of a self-conscious emancipation of photography as an artistic medium, while also reflecting the (not merely digital) moment, when the boundaries between these two previously competing media dissolve.
Picture: Thomas Ruff, Portrait (G. Benzenberg), 1985, Loan from the artist, © Thomas Ruff; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
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