Critics’ Picks

Lynne Cohen, Classroom, 1994, gelatin silver print, 43 3/4 x 50 1/2".

Lynne Cohen, Classroom, 1994, gelatin silver print, 43 3/4 x 50 1/2".


Lynne Cohen and Candida Höfer

Galerie Grita Insam
An der Hülben 3
November 23, 2006–January 27, 2007

Though Lynne Cohen is from North America and Candida Höfer from Germany, both were born in 1944, work with photography, and focus on interior spaces devoid of people. This fascinating show brings together their large-format photography for the first time. Here, commonalities of motif, medium, and format soon become evidence of difference. For instance, Höfer uses only color photography, while much of Cohen’s work is significantly smaller and in black-and-white. The key distinction, however, lies in their unique choices of motif: Höfer photographs public spaces like foyers, libraries, and museums, and her strict realism has become something of a trademark. Cohen, on the other hand, takes pictures of semipublic spaces containing extremely bizarre objects. In the 1970s, Cohen concentrated largely on party rooms and men’s clubs. Today, she photographs shooting ranges, classrooms, spas, military installations, and training environments. The odd objects, wall decorations, and furniture in these spaces seem to perform enigmatic functions; indeed, sometimes they look so out of place that one suspects that they were constructed especially for the photograph. But neither Höfer nor Cohen fabricates her environments. Cohen formulates her approach concisely: “Every room is a conceptual piece, an installation in real time”; the sentiment is a perfect meeting point for the artists’ works.