Art Hash: Art, Blended
As I write, I’m recalling a conversation between me and a seat mate while flying from Los Angles to NYC: A glass of wine lubricating the awkward friendship strike-up on account of nothing more than bodily proximity–and a need (at least for the stir crazy among us) to pass the time with something more stimulating than the in-flight magazine–meant hours of talk with the man next to me on everything from travel to politics–and eventually, with the Rockies below us, a good old-fashioned debate on the merits of black and white photography versus color.
I remember siding with black-and-white, asserting that nothing, absolutely nothing, brings home the stillness of a moment, that sensation of holding your breath while moved to image engagement and empathy like an image shot in black and white. My erstwhile companion lamented that the lack of color does nothing but deaden realistic emotion.
Well, it’s been a few months since then, and thanks to a fresh eye on the work of German-born contemporary photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, I’ve reached the middle ground of artistic compromise and appreciation–with a heaping of praise on the side for the color image.
Tillmans has been shifting our understanding of photography for over two decades: He’s broken barriers related to art shot behind a lens and, in the process, moved from everyday objects and life-as-it-happens to pure abstraction in the process. His earlier work looked at the fragility of the human experience (as well as everyday still life), and in the latter realm, the artist has been able to experiment with various technical processes–creating images that seem to “poof” out of electricity and smoke. With Tillman yet in the prime of his career ( he was born in 1968), fans of his work have much to anticipate in the years ahead as he continues his quest for photographic boundary pushing.
Caveat–Tillmans work is definitively atypical, and there’s a constant debate in the community about whether or not he is a true artist with a camera. Looking to nab a work for your halls? Decide for yourself what his work means to you, and your response to art in general–and then look at what the art investors have to say.