For the curator of this exhibition, Herta Wolf, the title “Skulpturen•Fragmente” (Sculptures•fragments) described the aspects of photographic art Wolf believes typical of the ’90s. By “Skulpturen” she referred to the sculptural or spatial dimension of certain of the photo-based works here, for example the installation by Susan Trangmar: from the center of the darkened room, images were projected on the walls and floor, not frontally but diagonally, sometimes overlapping the room’s corners. Romantic images of the sky were mixed with group photographs of children—found images dating from the present century. The total effect was to suggest a series of theatrical allegories of hope and ephemerality.

Like Trangmar’s, Alfredo Jaar’s work touches on a kind of social kitsch. The work he showed here, Untitled, 1990, juxtaposes pictures of the sky with images of boat people in Hong Kong, but the images never confront each other directly, positioned as they are on opposite sides of light-boxes. They only come together in an arrangement of mirrors. Michael Schuster set four Hasselblad cameras on transparent pedestals; when a viewer entered the room, the cameras took his picture. Jennifer Bolande contributed a photosculpture that humorously combined photography’s early status as a carnival attraction with its function today as a mass medium.

More problematic was the concept of the fragment. By its nature, almost any photograph is incomplete, a piece of a larger scene; Wolf seems to connect this truth with blow-up and detail photography, in which objects are so enlarged as to seem dangerous and threatening—fingernails as large as windshields, a sink as large as a monument, a heel as tall as a child. Some of the close-ups here are almost abstract. But it is difficult to consider this hoary device a typical phenomenon of the ’90s.

What may be specifically contemporary is the use of the close-up to speak of a certain dematerialization. The object photographed becomes a ruin of a no longer reconstructable whole, an abstract plane without a context. James Welling, for example, combines the concepts of sculpture and fragment in the series “Diary of Elizabeth C. Dixon, 1840-41(1822–72), N. 292,”1977–86 (shown in combination with “Connecticut Landscapes 1977–86, N. 119,” 1977–86, a series designed to match it). Welling has photographed the pages of a 19th-century diary. The slight curvature of these pages, and the diary’s pasted-in drawings and pressed plants, give his images an astonishing plasticity, creating an interplay between two- and three-dimensionality, among photography, writing, and visual signs.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.