Gallery  November 24, 2017  Andrea L. Volpe

Thomas Struth brings Hyperrealism to Marian Goodman Gallery

Courtesy Marian Goodman

Thomas Struth, Neutral Buoyancy Lab, JSC, Houston, 2017

Thomas Struth’s recent explorations of the natural and high-tech worlds are on display in a show of work that has not been previously exhibited in the United States.  

Images of Siemens’ High Voltage Testing Laboratory in Berlin and the Johnson Space Center in Houston continue Struth’s project photographing scientific research spaces. Struth has said that he seeks “to open the doors to what our mind has materialized and transformed into sculpture and to scrutinize what our contemporary world creates in places which are not accessible to most people.” At first, these images read as exposing covert operations, but their large scale makes them difficult to visually decode: are we seeing blown-up versions of a child’s playset or an actual place? Disclosure is not the only motive.  

Hyper-real and in a vibrant, Lego-set palette, the images advertise themselves as art, but they also reference the earliest industrial photographs that monumentalized the wonders of machine-age civilization. Struth’s images seem uneasy with the idea of photography as an instrument of progress. There is something autopsical about them, which makes their subjects seem less like objects and more like organisms. 

Courtesy Marian Goodman

Thomas Struth, Seeadler (Haliaeetus albicilla), Leibniz, Berlin, 2016

For the past 15 months Struth has been photographing taxidermied animal specimens from the collections of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. Each animal is carefully composed in the frame: zebra, giant heron, red fox among them. Taxidermy and photography are both ways of stopping time. As memento mori they are also starkly, hauntingly beautiful in their forensic formality. 

There’s no evidence of human action in either body of work--it’s as if the lab experiments made themselves and the animals preserved and arranged themselves for study--except for the presence of the photographer behind the camera that makes seeing them possible. 

Thomas Struth: New Works is on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York at 24 West 57th Street through December 22, 2017.

Learn more about the exhibition.

About the Author

Andrea L. Volpe

Andrea L. Volpe is a cultural historian, essayist, and critic. She writes about photography, culture, and technology from Cambridge, Massachusetts. More at andrealvolpe.com and on Twitter @andrealvolpe.

Related Stories