Critics’ Picks

Holger Niehaus, untitled, 2011, color photograph, 32 x 26”.

Hamburg

Holger Niehaus

Galerie Diane Kruse
Admiralitätstraße 71
November 12 - December 21

Holger Niehaus’s latest exhibition features still lifes of flower and object arrangements. His subjects are simplified and refined, and they are thoroughly marked by a heightened sobriety. But this quality––something that Niehaus has also explored in his earlier works––does nothing to disturb their opulence and gorgeousness. On the contrary, it is often precisely through this tension that an impression of the arcane is established.

Nearly all of the works are strictly concentrated on the subject. In a pack shot manner, Niehaus often displays the object against a white background, producing a terse sense of space through lighting and control of shadow. He typically drives his arrangements to the limit of abstraction: One of the images from 2011 (all of the works are untitled) merely depicts three pieces of luminous cardboard, all the same size and only touching one another at their upper corners like a house of cards. It is purely an image of surfaces being transposed into space. The subject is focused in the center of the image, but Niehaus slightly adjusts the camera angle in order to create a composition that appears to be a changing, complex, and visually fragile structure.

At first glance, a photograph from 2010 seems to be completely abstract: fields of various blue tones, shining coldly on a blue background. But here Niehaus has photographed the blue of the sky and then rephotographed the prints several times and arranged them on a blue background into a still life that recalls Color Field painting. The effect is very different from another work, from 2011, in which the object is simultaneously visible and hidden. One believes one sees an abstract sculpture, recognizing every detail of its contours––a metal blue-gray that looks like lead; a gleaming red bit of jelly or plastic. But then one realizes one is viewing an enlarged still life of fruit: one blueberry, which serves as a base for another half of a blueberry, and on top of that, a sliced red currant. The image is composed of real, solid matter, yet its subject appears completely abstract.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.