Bernd and Hilla Becher

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen - K20

I’ve seen Bernd and Hilla Becher’s black-and-white photographs of industrial structures innumerable times, but never quite like this: picture after picture, nearly 650 in all, showing buildings––water towers, grain elevators, coal bunkers, winding towers, gravel plants, gas tanks, industrial facades, cooling towers. A single object per image, and a single category exemplified in a group of nine, twelve, or fifteen photographs installed in a strict rectangle. How gray and monotonous. How totally repetitive and devoid of surprises. And yet, as a whole, the exhibition, which spans the Bechers’ output from 1961 to 2002 and is organized by K21 director Armin Zweite, is as grandiose and mesmerizing as a piece of serial music––cold and detached but still exuding a strange melancholy. The architectural world the Bechers have pictured is rapidly fading away. Most of the anonymous creations depicted

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