Sonnabend gallery features regular shows of some of the most well-known German photography, with what appears to be a focus on what many people would call the Düsseldorf aesthetic. You can see the Becher’s work here, Candida Höfer’s ginormous (and oddly soulless) interiors, and now Beate Gütschow’s b/w architectural work.
Of course, Gütschow’s photography isn’t really architectural photography: Her photos do not show real places. They were assembled from many different parts, into what could be an architectural scene somewhere. If you have ever been to Paris’ La Défense you certainly know the feeling conveyed by Gütschow’s dystopias. Or fly into Frankfurt’s airport on a very early flight.
In that sense, Gütschow’s work is real architectural photography, because it follows its conventions; and it shows places we are somewhat familiar with: Modern architecture meeting desolation or ruin or simply having no people being around.
When I grew up, almost every German city had such a dystopia right in its center: empty spots (spot is the right word, since it was unfilled space, often used for buses or trams) in front of the train stations, surrounded by unbelievable ugliness in the form of the new buildings that had hastily been erected in the formerly bombed out cities - with very little (if any!) regard for the people who had to live there. Of course, you can find those kinds of places elsewhere, too. For example, Boston’s Government Center is a “wonderful” example.
Gütschow’s craft is extremely convincing. Seeing her work in the white-cube gallery space leaves behind a feeling of dread - mind you, not because the photography is bad (which it isn’t at all), but because the photography is so convincing. If you’re in a bad or depressed mood better skip the show and come back another day (it’s up for a few more weeks). Or wait until Sonnabend will show her artificial landscapes.
If you decide to see this show you will have to look carefully to see all the little details that make this show so convincing. Beate Gütschow is one of the German photographers we are sure to see a lot more of in the future, and if this show in an indication of what we’re in for, I can’t wait for what will be next.