Critics’ Picks

Thomas Demand, Publishing House 64, 2015, pigment print, 40 x 53”.

Thomas Demand, Publishing House 64, 2015, pigment print, 40 x 53”.


Thomas Demand

Sprüth Magers | London
7A Grafton Street
October 13–December 19, 2015

Thomas Demand’s distinctive process of producing photographs that plumb terms of representation has long engaged architecture. This current exhibition features a series of pictures of models found in the Tokyo offices of SANAA. With a blanched palette, they’re almost black and white, save for a stray lilac or marigold scrap of tape here and there. In contrast, the gallery is darkened by a trompe l’oeil of chocolaty wrapping paper covering the walls, its creases partitioning them into a grid. By installing this wallpaper, Demand ensures that illusion and material presence come into close dialogue, even in the background of the exhibited works.

Art historian Michael Fried has interpreted Demand’s work as an attempt to wrestle intentionality back into every detail of the photograph; however, here, the artist bypasses his own hand. The SANAA maquettes exist as readymades that closely resemble the sculptural re-creations Demand has long constructed himself, and this series highlights unintentional accidents that befall the models. As enlarged close-ups of scaled-down miniatures, these works hover between documentation and images of pure form. Although the titles are generic—“university,” “museum,” “plaza”—the tight-angled framing and shallow depth of field unhinge the paper constructions from the architectural project, creating a virtual realm that doesn’t automatically implicate the human figure. Photography ratifies the existence of these concrete materials while deracinating and derealizing them. The otherworldly atmospherics of Publishing House 64, 2015, evoke an exquisite state of collapse—but of what? There’s a utopian dimension to these quasi-abstractions, which picture no-places that are almost no-things.