March 24 to May 21, 2011
“Prague” is Günther Förg’s first photographic exhibition in Portugal. It features nine large black and white photographs from 2007.
Since 1982, Förg has devoted himself to photography, along with other media of expression such as painting, for which he has become famous. And the pictorial tradition is discernible in his photographs, though it is overtaken by a conceptual approach that delves into the nature and potentialities of the photographic image. Through these inert surfaces, whose monumental size is enhanced by the black and white, Günther Förg depicts the world, his universe, himself and even the viewer. The extreme minimalism, plus the absence of people, allows the artist to free photography from being a medium that must faithfully reproduce reality and at the same time, gives him a chance to convey his personal view of time, memory and the fleeting nature of things.
In these photos, there is a persistent verticality and architectural configuration that we find in painting. But while Günther Förg’s paintings have an architectural landscape that is muted by abstract painting reminiscent of the architectural skeletons of structures waiting to be built, in his photographs, those buildings materialize in full view with the meanings and historical-cultural symbolism inherent to the cities where they were constructed. With great mastery, Förg captures the monumentality of these buildings, which are the emblems of political power or the vestiges of a bygone past that has either been lost or forgotten by the collective memory, whose presence becomes overwhelming.
These portrayals of the capital of the Czech Republic document the architectural landscape while contrasting its classical architectural heritage with the modernist. They are mute witnesses to the passage of time that give us a chance to relive distinctly different epochs in European architecture. However, the buildings celebrated in this disturbing architectural archive of the Hradcany District surrounding Prague’s Castle are no lucky snapshots or shutter-buff tourist shots; they are testimonials to the artist’s devotion to urban architecture. It is a devotion he has demonstrated since he first started taking pictures of the buildings of European cities that were once avant-garde but have since have been left to decay.
Günther Förg flouts all the conventions of portraying a building. He silences the structures with a boisterous granularity; he displays the architecture from improbable angles, focusing on details, in an exercise of plasticity and rhetoric whereby one detail is meant to represent the whole structure and the images, subsequently, are no longer bound to a particular time and place.
We are thus left alone with these mystified, frigid, silent edifices while our gaze, absorbed by the images, leads us to briefly forget that we are in an art gallery in Lisbon.
The photographs in the “Prague” series have only been exhibited once in 2007 as part of a solo show at the Hôtel des Arts - Centre Méditerranéen d'art in Toulon, France. This is their first gallery exhibition.
Günther Förg was born in Germany in 1952 and is currently considered one of the country’s foremost contemporary artists. He has held solo exhibitions in a number of well-known public and private institutions worldwide and has taken part in some of the most important collective shows featuring renowned contemporary artists. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (in New York), the Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), the Deutsche Guggenheim (Berlin), the Tate Modern (London), the Bawag Contemporary - Bawag Foundation (Vienna), the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Luxemburg), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Fundación La Caixa (Barcelona), the CaixaForum (Barcelona), the Fundación Telefónica (Madrid), and the Kunstmuseum Basel.