Altima Art Feature:

Wolfgang Tillmans – to Look Without Fear

By Catalina Cortez

Wolfgang Tillmans, the prolific German photographer, who became the first to win a Turner Prize in this medium, is now at the MoMA in New York City for the first time since 2006. The exhibition is a sweeping and profound retrospective that traverses every known photographic genre. 

We enter the exhibition through the Cohen Center’s double-doors and embark on a journey not unlike Siddhartha’s. The photographs – intimate portraits, landscapes, hedonistic nudes, art informel and still-life – are mostly unframed. They are simply taped to the wall or affixed with binder clips in a captivating array of sizes and staging. In another room, Tillmans presents his “Truth Study Center”: a collection of images, observations, newspaper clippings and ephemera arranged atop numerous tables. It is an exhaustive examination of his activism and advocacy, signature elements of his work.

Tillmans forces the audience to reject, abandon and redefine the boundaries and existing conventions of presenting fine art photography. The exhibition, like the celebrated photographer behind it, has been lauded in the art world ubiquitously.

Tillmans’ work ranges from sensual, to mundane, to gut-punching and visceral. Working your way through the maze of galleries is at different times uncomfortable, somber, funny, infuriating, perplexing, morbid and banal. It is human, in all of its depravity and all of its grace. In a time of content overconsumption and its resulted apathy, it reminds us of our sentient nature. Our ability to feel the full spectrum of emotion and how absolutely exhilarating that can be.

The exhibition will be showing at the MoMA through January 1, 2023. 

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