New York

Bernd And Hilla Becher

Sonnabend Gallery

I am not sure that the Bechers realize how peculiar plainness looks. August Sander is their model, and Sander understood the force of plainness: its implication of socialization, to the point of rigid conformity. All the buildings the Bechers show are militantly plain. Form does not follow function in them, but overwhelms function with its ordinariness. The Bechers are not so much documenting architecture, whether industrial or domestic, as showing how devastatingly ordinary it can be. At the same time, they show—perhaps without realizing it—how plainness is self-defeating, comes apart at the seams, as it were, and becomes bizarre. They create a typology of buildings, enforced by the groupings of images. Even in the single images shown at the Dia Art Foundation, the structural typology jumps out at once.

In 21 Industrial Facades, France, Belgium, USA and 12 Framework Houses, Southwest

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