Museum  December 12, 2018  Amy Funderburk

The Spiritual Interiors of Candida Höfer

North Carolina Museum of Art

Candida Höfer, Teatro Degollado Guadalajara, 2015

I'm not a photographer of architecture; I see my work as portraits of spaces.
—Candida Höfer

As soon as you enter the first gallery at the North Carolina Museum of Art that holds Candida Höfer’s large format photographs, you are transported. Commanding the space, her mostly symmetrical compositions contain no people, only lavish interiors that bear evidence of devotion as well as secular daily ritual.

© 2017 Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ciudad de México II, 2015

Born in 1944, this German photographer is known for depicting interiors around the world. In 2015, she took her camera to Mexico. By employing limitless depth of field within her massive chromogenic prints, Höfer expertly captures our attention as the eye dances throughout each baroque space.

While some of her locations have religious significance, Höfer imbues all her spaces, including theaters and museums, with the same spiritual quality we find in her convents and churches. Through her use of available light, Höfer invites us to take deep, meditative breaths with hushed reverence for both her majestic scale and richly ornamented subject matter.

Though perhaps Höfer intends the works to be psychologically engaging, by not including people, she provides these opulent spaces as the viewers own environment. "It is not my intention to make the audience reassess anything,” she states. “I just want to give them an opportunity to reflect on the image and their own experience of space—maybe even the experience of the space in which they view the image that stands before them.”

Candida Höfer, Hospicio Cabañas Capilla Tolsá from Daniel Buren work in situ Guadalajara V, 2015
© 2017 Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer, Hospicio Cabañas Capilla Tolsá from Daniel Buren work in situ Guadalajara V, 2015

Candida Höfer, Teatro Degollado Guadalajara III, 2015
© 2017 Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer, Teatro Degollado Guadalajara III, 2015

Candida Höfer, Hospicio Cabañas Guadalajara III, 2015
© 2017 Candida Höfer 

Candida Höfer, Hospicio Cabañas Guadalajara III, 2015

Candida Höfer, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ciudad de México III, 2015
© 2017 Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ciudad de México III, 2015

Höfer particularly succeeds in this when pairing two points of view from a theater. In both Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato I and Teatro Degollado Guadalajara I, the photographer shows the view from a stage, looking out onto empty rows of seats, while in Teatro Juárez, Guanajuato III and Teatro Degollado Guadalajara III, we look down from the balcony at a stage filled only with invisible ghosts.

Höfer’s heavily textured works are occasionally interrupted by such elegant compositions as Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ciudad de México II (Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City II). This essentially abstract composition charges the space with an etheric glow like a modern mandala.

© 2017 Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer, Candle, 2015

Alongside her other photographs, Höfer’s smaller works punctuate like asymmetrical jewels. Here she offers a genuine look at an unassuming corner, nook, or checkered floor, zeroing in on calm details, as in Vela 2015 (Candle 2015).

In all aspects, Höfer’s work elevates the spirit.

Candida Höfer in Mexico is on view at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh NC, through January 20, 2019.

About the Author

Amy Funderburk

Amy Funderburk is a professional artist and freelance arts writer based in Winston-Salem, NC, specializing in visionary works in which she explores the intersection of the physical world with a more fluid spiritual realm. She maintains a blog, Drinking from the Well of Inspiration, to provide deeper insight into her creative process. Follow her on twitter: @AFunderburkArt
 

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