Zurich - 28 October 2011 - 14 January 2012
Michael Wolf - Life in Cities
Christophe Guye Galerie is proud to announce its upcoming exhibition "Life in Cities", showing an exciting cross-section of Michael Wolf's creative oeuvre to date. Alongside works from his famed series "Tokyo Compression" and "Architecture of Density", "Life in Cities" will also introduce the equally prized group of works "A Series of Unfortunate Events"", also known as "Google Street View", which will be on view for the very first time in Switzerland. In a way distinctly his own, German-born photography artist Wolf manages with breathtaking visuals to capture modern life in all its aspects. Whether visualising densely populated metropolitan cities with dramatic portraits of façades, capturing the confining crowdedness of their inhabitants, or commenting on the surveyed "private" space we share, Wolf's works are both artistic and culturally investigative alike, touching on the nerve of time with his intimate yet indicative portrait of 21st century urban life. "Life in Cities" is synchronized with current group exhibitions at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, showcasing works from "Architecture of Density", and "Tokyo Compression" currently on view at the "Noorderlicht Photofestival", Groningen, Netherlands.
For the first time presented in this combination, the Christophe Guye Galerie is pleased to introduce Michael Wolf's solo exhibition "Life in Cities". Combining the renowned series "Tokyo Compression" and "Architecture of Density" with the artist's latest and much talked about images from "Google Street View", the show will include an entertainingly diverse and engaging selection of 22 works. May it be skyscrapers or street views, individuals or the mass, it is life in the 21st century in the world's metropolises that always has and continues to inspire Wolf's work. Whether they are viewed as works of art or considered as cultural documentations, his works portray and impart alike, revealing surprising views and moments, while similarly quietly holding a mirror for us to see.
With for many years now population density, privacy and voyeurism as recurring themes in Wolf's work, it is apparent that issues of cultural identity, urban life and vernacular culture have been the main focus and inspiration of his creative output. Whether demonstrated from an individual's point of view or that depicting the mass, Wolf's work - though as visually diverse as they may be - when viewed collectively as presented in "Life in Cities", speaks universally of the difficulty and the at times unsizable world we have come to live in.
His famous portrayals of Hong Kong's skyscrapers that, rather than buildings, appear like everlasting repetitions of architectural patterns of colour and concrete without reference to either sky or ground, exude the possibility of infinity while at the same time convey a dizzying sense of loss of orientation and confinement. Comparable with works by the likes of Andreas Gursky or Candida Höfer, Wolf's works from of "Architecture of Density" are astonishing yet perplexing linear abstractions. Accustomed to the cultural and economic undercurrents of his once adopted home, Wolf examines formal aesthetics of the city's architectural forms while visualising the interconnection thereof with the human presence at the heart of this international capital.
Similarly haunting the portraits of Japanese people inside crowded Tokyo subway trains of "Tokyo Compression" communicate a comical sadness or disorientation amid a hazy beauty alike. Perhaps sleeping or maybe just daydreaming to somehow escape, at least mentally, the inhumane "compression" of this lower-level world, Wolf's portraits of local commuters photographed through foggy subway doors impersonate the capital's density. Depicting countless faces, all pressed up against a window, with expressions of absence, discomfort or attempted denial, "Tokyo Compression" is a voyeuristic series about mental perseverance and mass loneliness in modern megacities.
With "Life in Cities" it becomes apparent that all of Wolf's series are interrelated, asking questions regarding public and private space, anonymity and individuality, and modern development and the influence thereof on our lives, and his "Street View" series being the best example perhaps of the later. Appropriation and documentation of daily life, characterized by pixelation and image noise, present us with an interesting and novel mixture of photojournalism and aspects already used by the Picture Generation: for "Paris Street View", "Manhattan Street View", and "A Series of Unfortunate Events", Wolf took photographs of his computer screen depicting "Google Street View" scenes. Finding interesting scenes online, rather than walking the streets as a photographer traditionally would, Wolf suggests a new way of reading known cities like Paris, while at the same time making a posing statement about contemporary art. Representational, humours and inquisitive at once, the works from "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and "Paris Street View" - as do all works on view collectively - confront us with both the cultural identities of cities and our suggested privacy within.
Michael Wolf was born in 1954 in Munich, Germany. He grew up in the United States, Europe and Canada, and studied at both UC Berkeley and the Folkwang School in Essen, Germany. In 1995 Michael Wolf moved to Hong Kong, where he intensively studied Chinese cultural identity and the city's complex urban architectural structure. He rose to fame after the publication of two impressive photography books visualising China, "Sitting in China" and "Hong Kong: Front Door/Back Door". In 2005 Wolf won his first prize, the World Press Photo Award, in the category "Contemporary Issues Series", and then again in 2010 within the grouping "Daily Life Single", both for works with topics photographed in Asia. For "A Series Of Unfortunate Events", all photographed from "Google Street View", the artist was recently again, in May 2011, awarded with a World Press Photo Award, this time with an Honourable Mention. Wolf's works are exhibited and collected worldwide, for example by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and shows currently including his works, such as "High-Rise - Idea and Reality" at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, and in "Metropolis: City Life in the Urban Age", at the "Noorderlicht Photofestival", Groningen, Netherlands. Furthermore, Wolf was under the eleven finalists for this year's internationally renowned photography award Prix Pictet, and numerous books have been published about his various series, of which Martin Parr selected his 2010 book "Tokyo Compression" as one of the 30 most influential photo books published between 2001 and 2010.