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Group Exhibition

»Optical Illusions . Contemporary Still Life«

Lucas Blalock, Annette Kelm, Antje Peters, Oskar Schmidt

Set tables, elaborate floral arrangements, ostentatious compositions of books, trophies, glasses, and instruments count among the well known motifs of classical still lifes and have for centuries been a canon of European art history. These once precious and symbolically charged objects have gradually given way to everyday objects. Meanwhile, perfume bottles, marbles, soft candy, hair shampoo, Starbucks cups, and pizza boxes are the objects of today’s still lifes. The traditionally picturesque subject is currently experiencing a renaissance in contemporary photography, breaking down the distinctions between artistically arranged still life on the one hand and commercial product photography on the other.

Even artists of the 1920s and ’30s such as Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy or Florence Henri experimented with the camera in a studio setting and created new forms of still life that were used as both artistic and advertising photos. Hans Hansen, whose exhibition entitled Still Life is being shown in dialogue with Optical Illusions . Contemporary Still Life, successfully continued this approach from the 1970s on as artistic product photography. Today, advertising and product photography belong to the visuals of everyday life in our digitized society, once again making the still life an attractive genre for young artists. In this way, artistic arrangements beyond the depicted subject are examined: new technical possibilities are explored, visual codes are reduced to absurdity, and our habits of thinking and perception are investigated in a time in which making and publishing pictures has become commonplace for nearly everyone.

The exhibition Optical Illusions . Contemporary Still Life curated by Ann-Christin Bertrand at C/O Berlin will present four artistic positions through the works of Lucas Blalock, Annette Kelm, Antje Peters, and Oskar Schmidt that do not just reassess the genre in a media sense, but rather also bring it up to date artistically. They all share an impressive precision and strict methodical formalization and use them to dissolve artistic conventions. By using both the rhetorics and aesthetics of everyday photography and at the same time questioning the mechanisms for the creation of photographic images, they open new spaces of thought and perception and readdress the differing conditions of digital image production and the aesthetic norms of photography.

The American artist Lucas Blalock demonstrates the work process behind photographic images in his pieces. Equally interested in both the history and in the possibilities of photography, he first uses classical studio photography with an analog large-format camera, and then scans the negatives and processes them digitally. However, instead of disguising these digital work processes, he leaves them perceivable, creating unique hybrid forms between classic object representations and their total alienation. In this way, his works reflect not only contemporary production methods of photographic images, but rather always also the viewing and the high complexity of photographic reality.

Lucas Blalock, born in 1978 in Asheville, North Carolina (USA). He lives and works in New York. After studying at Bard College in New York, he graduated from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture at Skowhegan and completed a Master of Fine Arts at UCLA in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC). He has published numerous artist books, has also worked as an author and critic, and has published various interviews and essays in magazines such as IMA, Aperture, Foam, Mousse and Objektiv.

For Annette Kelm, it is also about the approaches to our optical perception. Drawing on the artistic conventions of advertising photography like Elad Lassry or Roe Etheridge, her arrangements are generally cold and calculated. Her photographs are created by means of industrial and advertising photography. Instead of placing her objects on a neutral background, Annette Kelm mostly makes the background itself into the subject of the image. Whatever seems to stem from reality is then converted into a formally developed hyper-reality, which then loses its legibility. But precisely the strict orientation of formal criteria, the elimination of narrative elements and the deliberate irritation caused by the insertion of collaged props allow the viewer to come to nothing. Thus, their photographs become new spaces (of thought) resting between precision and ambiguity, space and surface as well as objectivity and abstraction.

Annette Kelm, born in Stuttgart in 1975, lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the University of Fine Arts (HFBK), Hamburg. Her work has won several awards, including the Camera Austria Prize for Contemporary Photography of the City of Graz (2015) and the ART COLOGNE Preis für junge Kunst (2005). Annette Kelm‘s works are located in prestigious collections of international museums and exhibition venues such as the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Kunsthaus Zürich and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Antje Peters‘ works adhere to the concept of a deliberate deconstruction of the perfect highgloss photograph: Expensive cosmetic products are painted with felt-tip pens and centrally placed in an amorphous bundle with adhesive tape and colored pencils laced into a package together with a Swatch wristwatch. A spilled glass of water, exotic fruits, perfume, marbles, bank notes and CDs are distributed with chewing sweets, playing cards and hair shampoo on a black background and in a more chaotic way than perfectly choreographed one– it‘s always about the „crafting“ behind the perfect, smooth and cold appearance of digital product photography. The artistic departure from known visual strategies in the advertising world is also being reflected in the presentation of her framed works at C/O Berlin, by consciously balancing between commercial window display and artistic installation.

Antje Peters, 1979 born in Berlin. She lives and works in Berlin. Since studying photography at the Utrecht School of the Arts, she has worked as an independent photographer and artist. In addition to the publication of her works in various books, such as The Curator as Barman (Automatic Books) or Illusion (Lodret Vandret) and in magazines such as L’Officiel, Numéro Homme Berlin, KaDeWe Magazin, Die Dame Magazin, Baron Magazine, they have also been presented in exhibitions at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Goethe-Institut and TENT Rotterdam, at the Knoll Galerie Wien, im Amsterdams Centrum voor Fotografie as well as the European Month of Photography in Berlin.

The clear and highly reduced images of Oskar Schmidt remind viewers of classic panel paintings. They are the result of careful arrangements as well as digital manipulation and display mirror-smooth surfaces, hidden objects or isolated portraits. Schmidt often refers to painting icons or photography history. At the same time, his recordings are in direct reference to socalled „stock photography“ – immaculate and mass-pre-produced studio recordings, which are license-free and authorless on digital image databases or are available free of charge via agencies. However, Schmidt is less concerned with the perfect reproduction of the original or the staging of the object and the figures themselves, and more with a photographic translation and artistic variation. With his factual and minimalistic photographic works, questions arise that go beyond the mere imaging technique of photography.

Oskar Schmidt was born in 1977 in Erlabrunn. He lives and works in Berlin. His works appeared most recently in various solo and group exhibitions, such as at the Fotomuseum Winterthur (2016), in the Aperture Foundation, New York (2014), at Zabludowicz Collection London/New York (2012), the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig (2011) and at C/O Berlin (2009). They are part of important collections of international museums and exhibition venues, such as the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin, the UBS Bank Art Collection, Zurich and the Zabludowicz Collection, London.

Also opening on July 12th at C/O Berlin:
Josef Koudelka »Invasion / Exiles / Wall«
Hans Hansen »Still Life«


July 13 – September 10, 2017
Opening Reception: Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 7 pm
Facebook Event


Amerika Haus, Hardenbergstraße 22-24, 10623 Berlin
[Charlottenburg | Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf]

Opening hours: Daily 11 am – 8 pm

Admission: 10 € / reduced 6 € | Online Ticket

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PiB Guide Nº52 JAN/FEB 2024 © PiB (Photography in Berlin). COVER PHOTO & page 5: Bernhard Fuchs, o.T. (Nr. 26, aus MÜHL, 2014-2019) © Bernhard Fuchs, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Solo show »MÜHL« at ROBERT MORAT GALERIE in Berlin-Mitte, read more on page 4 & 5! +++ PiB Guide Editor / V.i.S.d.P. / Art Direction: Julia Schiller · ele studio berlin +++ Printed on 100% recycling paper in Berlin-Köpenick by altmann-druck, many thanks!

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»PiB — Photography in Berlin« | PiB’s website, PiB’s weekly E-Newsletter, and the bi-monthly published PiB Guide: page 12 & 13 from the PiB Guide Nº15 Nov/Dec 2017; feat. the exhibition Evelyn Hofer »Cities, Interiors, Still Lifes. Photographs 1962 – 1997« at Galerie Springer Berlin; image credits: Queensboro Bridge, New York, 1964 / Coney Island, New York, 1965 / Girl with Bicycle, Dublin, 1966, all 3 photos © Evelyn Hofer, Estate Evelyn Hofer.
»PiB — Photography in Berlin« | PiB’s website, PiB’s weekly E-Newsletter, and the bi-monthly published PiB Guide: page 12 & 13 from the PiB Guide Nº15 Nov/Dec 2017; feat. the exhibition Evelyn Hofer »Cities, Interiors, Still Lifes. Photographs 1962 – 1997« at Galerie Springer Berlin; image credits: Queensboro Bridge, New York, 1964 / Coney Island, New York, 1965 / Girl with Bicycle, Dublin, 1966, all 3 photos © Evelyn Hofer, Estate Evelyn Hofer.

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