Sometimes, we have a moment—when we’re in the middle of, say, Times Square, or Grand Central Station, or on the subway during rush hour—when the city feels like infernal chaos. But on another day, you will have a moment where you wake up and see the absolutely beautiful, fluid, and harmonic ballet of different creatures and forces moving around. That’s the energy I like to capture…
Gagosian New York is pleased to present recent photographs by Vera Lutter.
Inspired by New York’s light, architecture, and perpetual state of flux, Lutter turned to photography in the early 1990s as a means to record the continuously changing cityscape. To capture an immediate and direct imprint of her surroundings, she transformed her apartment into a large pinhole camera, employing the space that contained her personal experience as the apparatus that would document it. Through a simple pinhole, instead of an optically carved lens, the city outside flooded the interior of the room and projected inverted images onto wall-size sheets of photo-sensitive paper.
Modifying shipping containers and empty rooms to create site-specific camera obscuras, Lutter has since applied her technique to subjects across the world: the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, the Egyptian pyramids, a coal mining site near Hambach, Germany, the acqua alta of Venice. Her exposures can take days, weeks or months to produce an image; she retains the negative form as the final, unique work—a literal reflection of space and time as determined by the immediate visual environment, with the most stable and permanent features (buildings, streets) as spectral foci. In New York, which remains a central inspiration for her photographic work, these elements are in a state of constant renewal and becoming.
In The Appropriation of Manhattan, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn, IV: June 16, 1996, Lutter captured the vast cluster of skyscrapers that make up the New York skyline from across the East River. Times Square, New York, V: July 31, 2007 depicts a familiar destination with a constantly evolving appearance, a rare vista within the urban labyrinth. From her studio on 39th Street, she has recorded the construction of a high-rise apartment building across the street and the subsequent loss of light and space. Formed by light, time, and motion, her exposures encompass and embody the speed and expansion of the contemporary metropolis. As Lutter describes her process, “I darken the room and set up the photo paper creating something like a stage for light to act. Now, whatever happens in the world outside of the room plays out on what I created. Then I sit back and let the world unfold, and whatever happens, happens.”
Vera Lutter was born in Germany and lives and works in New York. Public collections include Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Neue Galerie, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Major solo exhibitions include Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1999); Kunsthalle Basel (2001); Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2002); Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2004); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2005); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2008); and Carré d’art Musée d’Art contemporain, Nimes (2012).
Vera Lutter: On New York
Vera Lutter sat down with Marvin Heiferman, an independent curator and expert in photography, to discuss her latest New York exhibition.
Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera
During a two-year residency at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, from 2017 to 2019, Vera Lutter documented the museum’s changing campus and permanent collection, using her distinctive photographic technique. Here, she speaks about the experience with the museum’s director, Michael Govan.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2020
The Spring 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #412 (2003) on its cover.
Vera Lutter speaks with Gagosian’s Derek Blasberg about her Museum of Fine Arts Houston exhibition, using a shipping container as a camera, and her place in photography as we enter a digital age.