On the occasion of the starting season of PhotoEspaña15, the Barbican Centre of London has brought their exhibition “Constructing worlds: Photography and architecture in the modern age” to the ICO Museum in Madrid, one of the main sponsors and recurring hosts of the international photography festival.
Curated by Alona Pardo and Elias Redstone for the Barbican Art Gallery, Constructing Worlds brings together eighteen exceptional photographers from the 1930s to the present day who have changed the way we view architecture and perceive the world around us.
From the first skyscrapers in New York and decaying colonial structures in the Congo, to the glamorous suburban homes of post-war California, and the modern towers of Venezuela, the exhibition invites you on a global journey through 20th and 21st century architecture. Featuring over 250 works, this exhibition highlights the power of photography in revealing hidden truths in our society. The exhibition will remain open until September 6, 2015.
- Berenice Abbott
- Iwan Baan
- Bernd and Hilla Becher
- Hélène Binet
- Walker Evans
- Luigi Ghirri
- Andreas Gursky
- Lucien Hervé
- Nadav Kander
- Luisa Lambri
- Simon Norfolk
- Bas Princen
- Ed Ruscha
- Stephen Shore
- Julius Shulman
- Thomas Struth
- Hiroshi Sugimoto
- Guy Tillim
Also includes the work of iconic architects
- Le Corbusier
- Frank Lloyd Wright
- Minoru Yamasaki
- Luis Barragán
- Aldo Rossi
- Pierre Koenig
- Charles and Ray Eames
- Daniel Libeskind
Since the very first photograph, architecture has proved to be an enduring subject matter for photographers. Constructing Worlds looks beyond the medium’s ability to simply document the built world and explores the power of photography to reveal wider truths about society. The exhibition brings together over 250 works – some rarely seen and many shown for the first time – by 18 leading photographers from the 1930s to now, who have changed the way we view architecture and think about the world in which we live.
Constructing Worlds takes the visitor on a global journey of 20th and 21st century architecture, with highlights such as Berenice Abbott’s ground-breaking photographs charting the birth of the skyscraper in New York; Lucien Hervé’s subtle evocations of modernity as found in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier; the luxury lifestyle of Julius Shulman’s images of California’s residences; the moving nature of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum as seen by London based photographer Hélène Binet; the recent dramatic growth of Chinese urbanisation recorded by Nadav Kander and the devastating effects of war in Afghanistan as expressed in the poignant images of Simon Norfolk.
Organised both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition opens with Berenice Abbott’s photographed project Changing New York (1935-1939) that captured the transformation of New York into a modernist metropolis, focusing her lens on the dramatic changes the city was undergoing with towering skyscrapers replacing older low-rise buildings.
At the same time, Walker Evans was on assignment for the Farm Security Administration photographing the vernacular architecture of the Deep South which bore witness to the adverse consequences of modernity. In contrast, Julius Shulman’s photographs of the Case Study Houses programme (1945–1966) capture the experimental architecture and ideal modern lifestyle encapsulated in California in the 1950s. Le Corbusier quickly gauged the power of photography to communicate the essence of his architectural vision which was perfectly expressed in LucienHervé ’s cinematic documentation of Chandigarh – a modernist symbol of a newly independent India.
Reflecting on the legacy of Walker Evans’s objective documentary style and interest in vernacular architecture, which influenced a generation of photographers across the USA and Europe during the 1960s and 70s, the exhibition goes on to consider the works of Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore and Thomas Struth.
Combining the cityscape of Los Angeles with the vernacular, Ruscha’s photobooks Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965) andThirtyfour Parking Lots (1967) communicate a particular urban experience whilst the decaying industrial European landscape is the focus of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s comprehensive archive of arcane industrial archetypes. Stephen Shore’sexplosive colour photographs from Uncommon Places (1973 – 79) and Greetings from Amarillo, “Tall in Texas” (1971) and the unsentimental street scenes of Unconscious Places byThomas Struth all reference Evans’s nascent documentary approach, whilst reflecting on the repetition and banality which modernity can incite.
Considering photographers’ interpretations of and their response to architects and iconic buildings of the modern age is the focus of a section of the exhibition that reflects on the symbiotic relationship between photography and the architectural subject. Providing layers of narrative and injecting ancillary meaning to the physical space, these photographs offer a way of understanding the architects’ intentions in relation to the lived reality, as exemplified in Luigi Ghirri’s lyrical response to Aldo Rossi’s architecture; Hélène Binet’s studies of fragments of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, Berlin; deliberately blurred photographs by Hiroshi Sugimotoof iconic 20th century architecture; Luisa Lambri’s exploration into the reality of inhabiting and living a modernist lifestyle in domestic Modern architecture; and the response to the impersonality of individual works of architecture in Andreas Gursky’s monumental photographs.
Constructing Worlds culminates with an exploration of cities experiencing dramatic changes, where the contemporary experience of the urban built environment is conveyed throughGuy Tillim ’s exposé of late-modernist-era colonial structures in Angola, Congo, and Mozambique in the series Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2008); Simon Norfolk’s Chronotopia (2001) and Burke + Norfolk (2010) series, which show how the scars of the past are revealed in the architectural present; Bas Princen’s documentation of the urban transformation in the Middle East in Refuge, Five Cities (2009); Nadav Kander’s portrayal of the impact of colossal modern construction; and though the Torre David series by Iwan Baan, which captures an example of contemporary usurpation, adaptation and repurposing of architecture.
“Constructing Worlds: Architecture and photography in the modern world”
June 3 / September 6, 2015
Images and information courtesy of Museo ICO