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Book Review: Thomas Struth: 1977–2002


By Antoine du Rocher

NEW YORK, 13 December 2002—Like his teacher Gerhardt Richter and his compatriot Andreas Gursky, German photographer Thomas Struth (b. 1954) is currently the subject of a major itinerant exhibition in the United States. Curated by Charles Wylie of the Dallas Museum of Art, its first US venue, the show features over 90 photographs made during the past 25 years. The catalogue, Thomas Struth 1977 - 2002, has been published by Yale University Press.

Although equally gifted in his conceptual approach, Struth's work lacks the astonishing, high tech glamour that one found in the excellent survey of Andreas Gursky that recently finished its tour at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Still, anyone who has lived or travelled extensively in Central Europe will appreciate Struth's bleak, damp and psychologically poignant urban meditations. Visibly influenced by Erasmus prize-winners Bernd and Hilla Becher, Struth's cityscapes also document the anonymous and sometimes oppressive industrial architecture of Europe and the United States.

Thomas Struth
Düsselstrasse, Düsseldorf 1979
Photo: Thomas Struth


Since these sober and rigorous black-and-white streetscapes of the 1970s, Struth has expanded to portraits and his well-known "museum pictures"—monumental and often ironic pictures of people visiting museums, churches, and other cultural labyrinths around the globe. His family series depicts German, Japanese, Chinese and Scottish families in all their genetic and cultural splendor. Although concerned more with relationships, social history and contemporary art, these works raise nonetheless many of the same questions of identity and aesthetics as the portraits of August Sander and Eugéne Atget. More recently, Struth has created lush, colourful and large-scale landscapes of jungles and rain forests in Asia and South America.

The catalogue, Thomas Struth 1977 - 2002, includes 37 black-and-white plates and 80 colorplates, as well as informative essays by photography experts and art historians. Charles Wylie examines the evolution of Struth's work in relation to the history of photography of the last one hundred years, Maria Morris Hambourg and Douglas Eklund assess Struth's aesthetic influences, and Ann Goldstein discusses the role of portraiture in the German photographer's art. For those curious about the German wunderkind photographers, whose prints already command princely sums, this complete survey of Thomas Struth is essential.

Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth: 1977–2002
Douglas Eklund
Ann Goldstein
Maria M. Hambourg
Charles Wylie

Yale University Press, New Haven; 2002
190 pages, 37 b/w + 80 colorplates
$50
ISBN: 0-300-09360-8 (cloth)


Currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles through 5 January 2003, Thomas Struth: 1977–2002 will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 4 February–18 May, 2003; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 28 June–28 September 2003.


Antoine du Rocher is a French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of Culturekiosque.com

 

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