"Homage to the world we live in"

Philip Kwame Apagya
Rineke Dijkstra
Nan Goldin
Hisaji Hara
Almut Heise
Uwe Henneken
Elfie Semotan

October 28 – December 22, 2023

The exhibition Homage to the world we live in deals with the depiction of people, their states of mind and with different forms and ways of finding one's identity.

Title giving for the exhibition is a large-format painting by the artist Uwe Henneken (* 1974 Paderborn, D). "My interest has always been in the question of man's primordial being, the motor that drives him, and his urge to create cultures," is how Uwe Henneken describes his approach to artistic work. In his paintings and sculptures, he deals idiosyncratically with utopias of various kinds. Henneken's interest here is a profoundly cultural-philosophical one, tracing cultural history in its cycles and ruptures. Thus, Henneken's protagonists stand metaphorically for everyone's individual search for meaning, but also for our society's striving for transcendence, for fulfillment.

The work of Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra (* 1959 Sittard, NL) focuses on the exploration of identity. Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has created a multi-layered body of photography and video work that offers a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale color photographs of young, typically youthful subjects are reminiscent of 17thcentury Dutch painting in their scale and visual poignancy.

In the photographs of the American photographer Nan Goldin (* 1963 Washington, USA), the depiction of interpersonal relationships plays a decisive role. Goldin's photographs provide very personal insights into her living environment; her images are characterized by a relentless directness.

Since 1974, the German painter Almut Heise (* 1944 Celle, D) has devoted herself primarily to the depiction of people. The portraits of women and men are sensitive and at the same time distanced. Despite the supposed realism, it becomes immediately clear that the strangely lifeless spaces have been composed, each object has its assigned place. Seemingly natural poses are precisely arranged and follow a strict pictorial order into which people fit. Although the scenes and spaces seem familiar, the artist creates distance between the viewer and her painting. Her paintings radiate a detachment; one is not drawn into the scene, but always remains a distanced observer. "My paintings are only realistic to the extent that you can believe from what you see that it could exist. I'm not interested in whether it really exists like that. I want to make you believe it."

The photographs of Hisaji Hara (* 1964 Tokyo, Japan) are meticulous recreations of paintings by the Polish-French artist he revered, Balthus - one of the most admired and controversial artists of the twentieth century. The two photographs on view, from the series After Balthus, were taken over a five-year period beginning in 2006. Here, Hara creates scenes imbued with an unsettling combination of innocence and eroticism. We feel like silent, almost intrusive voyeurs in moments of youthful innocence.

In strong contrast, Philip Kwame Apagya (* 1958, Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana) is very much in the tradition of the studio artists who portrayed local populations in West Africa in the 20th century. He rejected black-and-white studio photography and instead used extremely colorful photographic backdrops of his own design, in front of which he has his protagonists pose. Apagya plays with the attributes associated with a consumer society and makes no secret of the fact that he is a dealer in illusions. This integration of Pop-art into his work earned him a reputation as an innovator in African studio photography. He runs the studio P. K. Normal Photo in the Ghanaian coastal town of Shama.

Also on view is an iconic portrait photograph by Elfie Semotan (* 1941 Wels, Austria) which depicts her husband Martin Kippenberger dressed-up in an evening gown by Issey Miyake. The photo is part of a series of photographs Semotan took in 1996 for the French magazine View on Colour. Kippenberger pictured in half-profile, recalling Semontans famous photograph of fashion icon Helmut Lang. In the same year, Kippenberger will take some photos from this series as a template for his famous last series of paintings titled Window Shopping. Elfie Semotan is one of the most important female photographers of the present time. She revolutionized fashion and advertising photography and has conquered this media, which like most artistic disciplines, was dominated by men for a long time.

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