Affinities … Now and Then

02/01/2003 - 03/26/2003
Affinities ... Now and Then

Affinities … Now and Then explores the affinities in artistic approaches to observation and image-making in photography in the last several decades, featuring historical and contemporary work and focusing on the influence of history and its relevance to contemporary practice.

Featured artists included: Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Elger Esser, Andreas Gursky, Doug Hall, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto

Photography lies at the heart of contemporary artistic practice.  The humorous but telling observation that “Photography is the new painting” is in the air — and its truth is revealed in every leading survey of international contemporary art. Why photography and why now?  What is new about this work, and what is its relation to the medium’s “traditional” history?

This exhibition seeks at least tentative answers to such questions by exploring a central aspect of contemporary artistic photography—large-scale color images made in an essentially formal, uninflected manner—and its historical “genealogy.”

In the early 1970s, German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher became known for a clinically descriptive photographic approach that blended conceptual and documentary concerns.  This straightforward style—applied to anonymous houses and industrial structures—reflected an essentially forensic approach.  This objective, systematic, and unemotional mode of vision had significant historical precedents, including August Sander, Walker Evans, and Ed Ruscha.

The Bechers’ work has influenced artistic practice on an international basis for at least thirty years. In particular, their ideas and approach have been given powerful expression—and extension—in the work of their many talented students at the Dusseldorf Art Academy, including Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Elger Esser.

This generation of contemporary German artists, along with artists Rineke Dijkstra, Doug Hall, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, currently working in the United States and Europe, continue to mine the conventions and innovations of the photographic medium to create powerful, highly individual images that describe the world around us.

Affinities…Now and Then was organized by Keith F. Davis, Fine Art Programs Director at Hallmark Cards, Inc., and Raechell Smith, Director of the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute.

The curators gratefully acknowledge the support of many in organizing this exhibition and would especially like to thank the lenders for their enthusiasm and generous assistance with the exhibition: Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York; Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York; Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Zwirner + Wirth Gallery, New York; and the Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City, Missouri.


Art Papers

Reviews: Central: Kansas City, MO
July 1, 2003
Download PDF


The Medium of the Moment
April 1, 2003
Download PDF

Kansas City Star

Cold Snap
March 7, 2003
Download PDF

Press Release

Affinities… Now and Then
February 1, 2003
Download PDF