New York

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Sonnabend Gallery

Winding towers are conveying machines—industrial structures used to transport workers and materials into, and out of, iron ore, coal, and salt mines. Alternately called “tipples,” “A-frames,” or “pitheads,” they date from mid-19th-century England, locus of the Industrial Revolution, and have spread over today’s global terrain. Their basic form consists of two elevated wheels circumscribed by cables securing load-bearing cages that ascend or descend in opposite directions. Form is generally determined by function; however, these towers exist in various regional styles, ranging from rustic, often ramshackle wooden edifices (small mid-20th-century towers in eastern Pennsylvania) to intricate traceries of steel. Surveyed from the surrounding territory they appear as awkward but imposing gargantuan triangles, looming over the horizon.

Physically uncanny but wholly serviceable forms, these winding

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