Thomas Florschuetz, Enclosure (Brasilia) 12, 2008–10, C-print, 72 x 89 3/4".

Thomas Florschuetz, Enclosure (Brasilia) 12, 2008–10, C-print, 72 x 89 3/4".

Thomas Florschuetz

Thomas Florschuetz, Enclosure (Brasilia) 12, 2008–10, C-print, 72 x 89 3/4".

For his exhibition “Durchsicht” (Vista), Thomas Florschuetz selected seven photographs from several different series, yet perspective played a central role in all of them. Also, many involved a tension between a monumental aesthetic and everyday reality (or functionality). In Untitled (Wonder Valley) #01, 2010, for instance, the open facade of a ruined building reveals a small window with a view of a mountain landscape, a glimpse of scenic beauty in an otherwise unprepossessing picture. Here, perspective makes the image appear less real; actual depth is compressed and hence reads as abstract.

Florschuetz has a knack for finding sculptural or painterly moments in architecture; this is where his perspective becomes distinctive. Enclosure (Brasilia) 12, 2008–10, taken in Brazil’s Supreme Court building designed by Oscar Niemeyer, presents a view out of the edifice. On the left, gleaming metal poles are held together by red cords. Designed for herding visitors into neat lines, they seem both absurd and sculptural. The view from the window is wonderfully distorted by the white mesh of the shades, which creates the effect of a painter’s canvas.

Florschuetz is a photographer who loves detail. The series “Jets,” begun in 2007 and exhibited in Berlin in 2009, consists of close-up photographs of old fighter aircraft. In his fragmentary views of these large, powerful machines, their very nearness conveys a visceral sense of their size and material presence. Untitled (Jet) 45, 2008–2009, offers a surgical look inside a jet engine. Amid an intricate lacework of tubes and wires, sunlight seeps into the picture in two places, and you find you are looking out of the engine’s exhaust. This was the show’s only photograph of anything other than a building or interior.

Three of the images were taken in Berlin’s Neues Museum, where Florschuetz was invited by the architect David Chipperfield to photograph the complex renovation process that preceded the building’s 2009 reopening. The large triptych Enclosure (NM) 16, 2009–10, shows a vaulted corridor receding into the distance, flanked by massive, stately pillars still marked by the ravages of World War II. Yet the spell of this romantic ruin is broken by gray plastic wires that emerge from the ceiling for future lighting fixtures.

Florschuetz’s photography would be unthinkable without the history of modernism. He is as concerned with twentieth-century abstraction as he is with his specific subject matter. The balance between the “how” and the “what” determines the degree of success or uniqueness of a given work. I was least impressed by the photographs of the Neues Museum. Though precise and aesthetically pleasing, they lean heavily on their documentary role as records of the transformation of a major Berlin museum. In the other photos on display, it matters less which building (or machine) you’re looking at exactly; the point is the photographer’s perspective and the wry poetry he finds there. What fascinated me most about the exhibition was its view of modernity: admiring, but also melancholic, acknowledging decay and imperfection. Florschuetz’s clean aesthetic has grime in the details. Grandeur is put into perspective.

Jurriaan Benschop

Translated from Dutch by David McKay.