Critics’ Picks

Frauke Eigen, Kuchi, 2008, gelatin silver print, 12 x 12".

Frauke Eigen, Kuchi, 2008, gelatin silver print, 12 x 12".


Frauke Eigen

Niebuhrstrasse 2
April 17–May 23, 2009

In Frauke Eigen’s black-and-white photographs, skin is as soft and still as opulent fabric, while cloth flowers, the details of garments, and other inanimate objects are given the careful, intimate, and tender attention that other artists might reserve for the subjects of portraiture. The German-born and Berlin-based photographer took these pictures in Japan, and the work expresses a keen awareness for her surroundings as well as a respect for the calm, clean aesthetic of Japanese design and Zen philosophy.

The close-up view of the simple curves of a young woman’s velvety round cheeks, chin, nose, and lips in Kuchi, 2008, are rendered even softer by the blurry background in Eigen’s shot. An illuminated circular window framed by interior darkness is the most startlingly high-contrast image in the exhibition, but the sloping shadows shading the window’s frame create a palpable sense of ease and placidity. Beyond her selection of subjects, Eigen radiates a Zen sensibility through her use of soft grays and patient focus on details. In these works, she also nods to the wabi-sabi theory of imperfect or incomplete beauty by presenting small flaws. Some of the tulips crafted from patterned fabric that Eigen intimately photographs in Zôka, 2009, have awkwardly bent stems, and the girl who impassively stares at Eigen’s camera for Onna no ko, 2008, has slightly asymmetrical features. Here, Eigen demonstrates the image’s potential to convey the emotional aspects of serenity.