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Galerie Buchholz : Wolfgang Tillmans : Summer Storm Drops Freeze Frame


The Berlin gallery exhibits a wide selection of photographs by the diverse and committed German artist, most of which were produced in recent years. Shapes, textures, subjects… Varied images that play with the materiality of the world around us, inviting us to observe differently, more deeply.

The immaculate skin of a naked body, piles of stacked leaves, a New York cityscape, a portrait of Jodie Foster, a sculpture of Brussels sprouts or even a rectangle of two-tone light… Who could define the style of Wolfgang Tillmans, if not an unspeakable talent for making images speak? As he releases his second music album, Build from Here, Tillmans reveals Summer Storm Drops Freeze Frame, taking the title from an image captured from his office in Berlin. The cobbled street through a window where a multitude of small frozen rain droplets in turn form new windows and new ways of understanding this same view.

Tillmans’ photographs seem to continually challenge the function and representation of objects, whether it is a silicone filter at the bottom of a urinal or a drinking water bag in Lagos. And what is a container stuck between four edges and the two-dimensionality of an image, if not a visual mass? The industrial landscape is a playground for the photographer who seems to detect there a pictorial material particularly conducive to distortion, with all that this implies in terms of sensations. The structures that cover the urban landscape are then redefined. A leitmotif also illustrating his still lifes and crystallized by this sculpture of Brussels sprouts which looks, ironically, at the skyscrapers of San Francisco. A staging which manages to create a cognitive disorder between the subject and its environment thanks to a characteristic semantic gap.

Diversity of topics covered but also variety of formats. Wolfgang Tillmans’ exhibitions are always experiences in their own right images are found everywhere where we are not looking for them, like this little lonely bee above a door. And the choice of framing, always supervised by the artist himself, demonstrates meticulous casualness: large photographs (more than 4m by 2m for the largest), alternately pinned to the wall or in a white aluminum frame, up to very small formats simply taped to the wall. We then wander around and find ourselves in a room where the photos denote by their genre: the star Sirius observed by a defocused telescope in 2023 alongside a photocopied and cropped photograph of a dive dating from 1987, among the rare old images presented, testifying, among other things, to the variety of means of reproduction used by Tillmans.

If the hangings bring together a majority of photographs taken in recent years, his photographs could also be brought together under the themes that he reinterpreted over the years. This is how we find male nude, still lifes, portraits of those around him – personalities (including Jodie Foster, luminous in a yellow t-shirt and electric green eyeshadow) as well as strangers, cities and their streets , in New York or London; in Mongolia or Ivory Coast. All this, alongside more experimental creations, like Lighter where light structures provide an elusive relief.

An installation punctuates the exhibition: leaflets mixing words and images, Zur Sprache Kommen (“Coming to the Word”). And it is perhaps here, precisely, that we touch on how the artist and activist thinks and links his images together: drawing visions, perspectives and thoughts, without ever being satisfied with a fixed language.

Noémie de Bellaigue


Wolfgang Tillmans at Galerie Buchholz until July 13, 2024.

Galerie Buchholz
Fasanenstraße 30,
10719 Berlin

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