Whitechapel Gallery Opens Thomas Struth Photographs: 1978-2010 Exhibition

The Whitechapel Gallery presents Thomas Struth’s first solo show in Britain for almost 20 years. Struth’s large-scale photographs bring his intense and precise vision to subjects as diverse as visitors looking at famous works of art in the world’s great museums, family portraits and the dense undergrowth of the Asian jungle. The exhibition is on view from July 6 through September 16, 2011 in Galleries 1, 8 & 9.

Whitechapel Gallery

Thomas Struth is an artist who travels widely and captures cities from New York to Tokyo, while his latest vast colour photographs show sites of cutting edge technology such as the Kennedy Space Station on Cape Canaveral and Korean shipyards. The exhibition includes his iconic museum series of life-size photographs showing tourists admiring Michelangelo’s David statue in Florence, Italy, and pupils chatting in front of Velazquez Las Meninas at the Prado, Madrid. The works show the awe that art can inspire on people’s faces, without revealing the object they are looking at, and are testament to Struth’s continuous interest in places of culture around the globe.

Thomas Struth, Crosby Street, New York/Soho, 1978. Silver gelatin print, 64.0 x 84.0 cm © Thomas Struth.

The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition includes over 70 works from 1978 to 2010 and assesses the important role he has played in redefining fine art photography.

Several photographs depict a range of places in which people invest faith and belief: from French Gothic cathedrals to the extraordinary El Capitan rock in Yosemite National Park, California and high-tech research laboratories pushing the boundaries of science in the twenty-first century. Struth once compared the space shuttle programme to the construction of medieval cathedrals, reflecting on ‘the extremes of human effort, conviction, organisation and perhaps also hubris’. This interest in human construction also encompasses huge-scale panoramic photographs of sites of shipyards, oil rigs and sprawling cities in Asia; structures which make our modern way of life possible but at the same time dwarf people in their scale and ambition.

The artist’s most recent images of sites at the cutting edge of technology such as his almost 4-metre-wide panorama of the space shuttle undergoing repair at the Kennedy Space Centre on Cape Canaveral are among the largest on view. Their ambitious scale shows the possibilities of human achievement, but also the flaws in this ambition, as repairs are made to the huge structure.

Struth’s early black and white photographs taken in the deserted streets of cities including Brussels, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, London, Naples, New York, Paris and Rome in the late 1970s and early 80s are on display, shaped by his years growing up in re-built German cities. He has also repeatedly photographed families he knows both near home as well as in far-off destinations such as Lima, Shanghai and Hiroshima. While showing cultural differences, the similarities of these portraits reveal a shared sense of humanity.

The exhibition also includes the dense jungles and forests from Struth’s Paradise series. They are a detailed presentation of nature, with no human presence, in contrast to his other works about culture and systems of belief.


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