Photography used to be like alchemy in the nineteenth century. It was the medium of the few; now it is a mass medium—and slightly dead. Maybe it is reactionary to turn backwards, to try and establish art history again, but that is the most interesting part of the process—not just the black box.
Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present recent photographs by Florian Maier-Aichen.
A photographer schooled on both sides of the Atlantic, Maier-Aichen’s work reflects on the dual influences of the history of photography and the history of painting. Focusing on the camera’s consummate power to establish typologies of thought, perception, and feeling, he produces images that, in mining the past, come to embody a matrix of issues highly relevant to photographic practice today.
Approaching his chosen field like a painter approaches a canvas, Maier-Aichen does for the contemporary image-world what pictorial photographers attempted in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, using the strategies and motifs of then-contemporary genre painting. In a creative process that is as intensive as it is subtle and opaque, he combines an exhaustive range of staged effects and traditional photographic techniques with drawing and current computer-imaging processes, sandwiching all sources together to develop different levels and frequencies of information within a single image.
While continuing to work in the context of representational photography (skies, sunset, landscape), the studio photograph (still lifes, including reproduced motifs), and the technical theater of traditional animation, in his new photographs Maier-Aichen proposes an approach to image-making in photography that is more analog and incidental. Chance, one of the key factors in candid photography, is given form in single and unrepeatable actions.
In several untitled photographs, a splatter is the central motif of an abstract composition. The splatters are produced by pouring acrylic paint directly and spontaneously onto paper rolls. In order to incorporate them into color-graduated fields, they are reproduced and then output onto transparent film. This film is then laid over various backgrounds on a huge copystand, and rephotographed. Different levels of detail emerge out of the multiple layers of process, recalling former times in traditional photography when the image would slowly and miraculously materialize in the darkroom developing tray. In another singular work, a flat drawing in the form of a dynamic Op-art line is similarly transformed into a photographic still-life against a studio backdrop. The unique and spontaneous gesture is thus a stand-in for the decisive moment of the shutter that produces the snapshot, reflecting Maier-Aichen’s desire to provide a romantic counterpart to the technical side of photography.
Florian Maier-Aichen was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1973 and studied photography in Germany and the U.S. Recent solo exhibitions include the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid (2008) and the Museum of Contemporary Art at Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles (2007). Group exhibitions include “The Artistʼs Museum” (2010) MOCA, Los Angeles; “The Smithson Effect” (2011), Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City; “Natural History” (2012) Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Maier-Aichen lives and works in Cologne, Germany and Los Angeles, California.