Zwirner & Wirth will present an exhibition of selected photographs from the 1960s and 70s by the highly influential German artists Bernd & Hilla Becher. Having begun their partnership in 1959, the Bechers transformed not only our post-modern vision of the world, but also their ground-breaking methods and techniques have completely redefined the role of the photograph in the realm of the fine arts. Considered the most influential teachers of the second half of the 20th Century, the Bechers have contributed greatly to the recent success of the new generation of German conceptual photographers, such as Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, all of whom studied under the Bechers at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf.
In their signature style, the Bechers have, over the past four decades, produced images of industrial landmarks, which at one time stood for the technological triumphs of the industrial age. This exhibition will present a survey of photographs, tracing the beginnings of the Bechers’ artistic collaboration in the 1960s and 70s, including key images of the gas tanks, blast furnaces, cooling towers, coal mines structures, framework houses, lime kilns and water towers. Typical of the early years, many of the photographic works from the 60s and 70s are uniquely composed artworks consisting of photographs mounted to board and hand-inscribed by the artists.
Shot in a rigorous, standardized format, where the subject is presented without the typical play of shadow and light, camera angles or dramatic compositions, the Bechers give us a very unglamorous, systematic view of these industrial artifacts. Their commitment to pure objectivity focuses on the anonymity of this form of architecture, allowing only the name of the structure and the date it was shot in the final title. The Bechers also work in a serial fashion, using a format called a " typology" which groups individual photographs of the same subject matter in one frame, stressing the subtlety and variations of like structures. Most importantly, their photographs always attempt to reveal the original function of theses structures, which is tied to the Bechers’ interest in the economics behind their construction.
As chroniclers of human endeavor, the Bechers have created a conceptual art form devoid of their own personalities and deeply rooted in an empirical certainty, which has shaped the way we view the accomplishments and failures of human kind today.