New York • Tillmans's major retrospective at the MoMA
On show: 350 works photographs, videos and multimedia installations
"To look without fear", Wolfgang Tillmans's current exhibition at New York's MoMA (until January 1st 2023), already seems from its title to be a denial of, or at least a contradiction to, one of his previous solo shows, Fragile. The conditional form is a must, because for an artist, contradictions are the foundations on which he builds his castles in the air; because it is contradictions first and foremost that compel an artist to never be satisfied with his achievements and to conduct new experiments; because, after all, either an artist is contradictory, or he is a priest saying Mass. The two aforementioned titles contain much if not all of Tillmans’s artistic journey. The fragility of human bodies exposed to a foreign gaze, without any allegorical intent: the presences we see do not refer to anything else, they are simply themselves, testifying to their and our fragility with their helpless physicality. Fragile is in the presence in general, of those who expose themselves and those who look on, just as fleeting is the moment of the pose, of the gaze that captures the pose and that which observes the photograph before moving on to another. So human are Tillmans’s photographs, in their fleeting moments of intimacy, that they humanize the viewer’s gaze and relationships with images that have nothing human about them: a car headlight, a waterfall, architectural perspectives and abstract lines, perhaps forms of ecstasy that connect people to each other. Fragile, in the final analysis, are the connections in arrangements of photographs of different sizes crammed together, as if to assault the viewer’s eye, and then empty spaces to have it come the eye come to rest, so as to make clear how Tillmans’ s poetry does not strictly investigate the mare magnum that separates the shores of corporeality and abstraction. It is relationships, precisely, that create the contradictions that define art, the artist and humanity in general, relationships which are fragile, transitory, mobile and precarious. It is perhaps the precariousness of our condition, of every relationship, that is most frightening. It is, too, the main subject of Tillmans’s art and, and one might say, photography, with its obsession with the fleeting moment and its stubborn desire to replace the eye. Maturity could be defined as acceptance, and transcendence and, in the rare cases when wisdom allows, appreciation for the precariousness of our bodies, of their absence, of the relationships with which everyone’s being is woven. To finally have the courage to expose oneself and to look. To really look, that is, in a human way.
To look without fear
New York, MoMA
Curated by di Roxana Marcoci