Critics’ Picks

Wolfgang Tillmans, Fespa Digital/Fruit Logistica Grid, 2012, 128 offset prints, overall 4’ 9” x 14’ 9”.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Fespa Digital/Fruit Logistica Grid, 2012, 128 offset prints, overall 4’ 9” x 14’ 9”.

New York

Wolfgang Tillmans

Andrea Rosen Gallery
544 West 24th Street
May 4–June 22, 2013

In Wolfgang Tillmans’s latest exhibition of casual snapshots, abstractions, and framed and unframed photographs—many from his recent “Neue Welt” exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zurich—he suggests that a single image always contains multitudes. Jeddah mall I, 2012, evinces this idea in a wonderfully literal way. The ink-jet print depicts a woman shrouded in a black burqa riding an escalator in a Saudi Arabian shopping mall. The gleaming mirror finish of the escalator sends reflections skittering around the surrounding store windows and fixtures while her opaque figure cuts the only interruption in this frenzied, fun-house industryscape. It’s a timely reminder that traditions often coexist uneasily with modernity’s sleek environments and technology’s engineered clangor.

In another room, Tillmans offers a radical perspective on globalization with Fespa Digital/Fruit Logistica Grid, 2012, 128 offset pages from his newest book individually Scotch-taped to a wall. Juxtaposing shots from a digital printing fair with eerily similar ones from a Berlin-based fresh produce trade show, these are picture postcards from the image-industrial complex. What’s most troubling here are the surreal portraits of vibrantly colored produce festooning booths and sealed in plastic on light-box shelves, implying that food, formerly a basic need, is now a commodity subject to the values of progress and improvement built into design, industry, and digital technology. The issue of a globalized market of food parallels the crisis of the unique art object in an age when technology enables a flood of both cheap, synthetic products masquerading as sustenance and easy digital images with illusions of meaning. Tillmans’s pictures stand out because they address that overflow of imagery and information and insist we consider the political implications of images now primarily functioning as foot soldiers for desire-producing industries.