Gagosian Quarterly

November 20, 2015

In Conversation

Vera Lutter

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.

Vera Lutter, Pepsi Cola (small logo): August 10, 2002, 2002, gelatin silver print, 13 ¼ × 27 ½ inches (33.7 × 69.8 cm), unique

Vera Lutter, Pepsi Cola (small logo): August 10, 2002, 2002, gelatin silver print, 13 ¼ × 27 ½ inches (33.7 × 69.8 cm), unique

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, fashion editor, and New York Times best-selling author. He has been with Gagosian since 2014, and is currently the executive editor of Gagosian Quarterly.

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Derek BlasbergHow did this show in Houston come about?

Vera LutterThe Chief Curator of Photography at the MFA in Houston, Malcolm Daniel, was formerly the Chief Curator of Photography at the Met in New York, so I’ve known him for 20 years. We met soon after my graduate show—I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York—in 1994. He had heard about my work but the show was down, so he came to my apartment since at the time I didn’t have a studio. I guess he liked what he saw because he became a big champion of my work and the Met became one of my greatest supporters. In fact, it was through the Met that I was introduced to Larry Gagosian. So, when Malcolm moved to Houston and had an opening in his programming schedule, he invited me to collaborate with him again, and of course I was elated.

DBWhat’s in this show?

VLIt’s something of a mini retrospective. It includes twelve large photographs with a variety of subjects, and it includes works dating back to 1998.

DBWould you describe it as a survey of your work?

VLIt certainly gives an overview of the different themes I’ve considered.

DBI’m often drawn to your more industrial images, were any of these selected for the show?

VLYes, there’s an oil rig that I photographed in a German shipyard, and it’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s from 2000 and it’s called Kvaerner Shipyard, Rostock Warnemünde, IX: December 5, 2000I used to title my works according to the place where they were photographed, but I was forced to stop doing that when I discovered that another photographer was traveling to those locations in an attempt to duplicate my work.

DBOne of your most iconic series, and one of my favorites, is your work from the Pepsi Cola factory.

Vera Lutter

Vera Lutter, Times Square, New York, V: July 31, 2007, 2007, gelatin silver print, 101 × 56 inches (256.5 × 142.2 cm), unique

VLYes, that’s in the show as well. I photographed these works in 1998, so it’s one of my earliest series. I discovered the Pepsi Cola sign one night when I was out with my friends and we were driving down the East Side of Manhattan, and there it was across the river in Long Island City. The factory allowed me to use their roof to set up my equipment for the picture, and then they let me photograph the inside of their factory too, which lead to many more conceptual images, such as Pepsi Cola Interior, XXIII: July 1–31, 2003.

DBTalk to me a little bit about your process. How do you find a location?

VLMost often things start with an idea in my head, and many times I don’t even know the location. I get an image in my head and then I look for it in the world and for a space to realize it. Sometimes people will make suggestions to me. There’s an image of a massive mining machine in the show, which my mother told me about. She said this would be a great topic for me, so I went and saw it and she was totally right.

DBThe first “camera obscura” that you ever created was in your apartment. You turned your entire apartment into a camera. How has your technique evolved?

Vera Lutter

Vera Lutter, Pepsi Cola, Big Vent and Logo, Summer 2000, 2000, gelatin silver print, 19 ½ × 12 inches (40.5 × 30.5 cm), unique

VLWell, I don’t have a studio apartment anymore. That’s the good news! But the process is the same: I still work with a camera obscura, which can be a room, it can be my studio, it can be a cabin I build or a shipping container that I rent. I always take the easiest route: If there’s nothing, I’ll build a little house or rent a shipping container. At the Pepsi Cola Bottling Factory in Long Island City, it wasn’t possible to crane a shipping container onto the roof, so my friends and I built a little cabin, and that became my camera.

DBAnd then technically speaking, how long does it take to find and create an image?

VLIt varies. The Pepsi works from the interior of the factory were probably a one month exposure. The longest I’ve ever exposed an image was for three months, at the interior of the Nabisco Factory which is now Dia Beacon.

DBYour work is typically monochromatic. Would you say that you see the world in black and white, or is it more the result of your process?

VLI try and see the world the way it is, but then segments stand out and turn into my work. For example, there is a beautiful old tree in front of my house, and it’s red and green, and I love those colors. But if I were to photograph it, I would use grey to find the color, and then focus on the contrast and the shape. This is the reason I don’t photograph everything. If you want to photograph a person, and you want to capture them beautifully, you wouldn’t ask me. My photograph would capture them in reverse as a negative image and in black and white. In most cases that’s not the most beautiful way to see a human face.

DBHow do you think photography, and your work, will change as we enter a digital age?

VLWell, I have dabbled with the digital medium—I made a video—and I profoundly enjoyed that project. But generally speaking, I’m inspired by the analogue photography process. Digital is virtual, and yes I take snapshots on my camera, which I cherish. Those are the diary that we all make of our lives, but I think of that as a private interest. The painter works with paint and a paintbrush, a photographer works with chemistry and the chemistry lends itself to something more mysterious. I really enjoy having those materials in my hands.

Artwork © Vera Lutter

Vera Lutter, Erechtheion, Acropolis: August 25, 2021, 2021

Vera Lutter: Time Travel

Jean Dykstra reports on Vera Lutter’s new series, produced on the occasion of a commission to photograph Athens.

Takashi Murakami cover and Andreas Gursky cover for Gagosian Quarterly, Summer 2022 magazine

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2022

The Summer 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, with two different covers—featuring Takashi Murakami’s 108 Bonnō MURAKAMI.FLOWERS (2022) and Andreas Gursky’s V & R II (2022).

Black and White photograph by Vera Lutter, Rodin Garden, I: February 22, 2017, 2017, unique gelatin silver print

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.

The cover of the Spring 2020 edition of the Gagosian Quarterly magazine. A Cindy Sherman photograph of herself dressed as a clown against a rainbow background.

Now available
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: On New York

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.

Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler

In Conversation
Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler

Gagosian hosted a conversation between Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler, director of Swiss Institute, New York, inside 30 Ghosts, the artist’s exhibition of new paintings at Gagosian, New York. The pair explores the work’s recurring themes—the cycles of life, continuity and the future, and death—and discuss how the conceptual and pictorial structures Bonnet borrows from seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting converge to form a metaphor for hard labor, basic animal urges, and the things we often try, but fail, to hide.

Oscar Murillo and Ben Luke on Franz West

In Conversation
Oscar Murillo and Ben Luke on Franz West

In conjunction with Franz West: Papier, the gallery’s presentation of paper-based works by Franz West at Frieze Masters 2023, artist Oscar Murillo and arts writer, critic, and broadcaster Ben Luke sit down to discuss Murillo’s collaboration in selecting the works on view, as well as his personal experiences meeting the late artist in London.

Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi sit next to each other in the artist’s studio

In Conversation
Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi

In conjunction with the exhibition The Painter in His Bed, at Gagosian, New York, Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi discuss the motif of the stag in the artist’s newest paintings.  

Jerome Rothenberg in a chair

In Conversation
Jerome Rothenberg and Charles Bernstein

Gagosian and Beyond Baroque Literary | Arts Center hosted a conversation between poets Jerome Rothenberg and Charles Bernstein inside Anselm Kiefer’s exhibition Exodus at Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Rothenberg and Bernstein explored some of the themes that occupy Kiefer—Jewish mysticism, the poetry of Paul Celan, and the formulation of a global poetics in response to the Holocaust—in a discussion and readings of their poetry.

Dorothy Lichtenstein and Irving Blum stand next to each other in front of Roy Lichtenstein's studio in Southampton, New York

In Conversation
Irving Blum and Dorothy Lichtenstein

In celebration of the centenary of Roy Lichtenstein’s birth, Irving Blum and Dorothy Lichtenstein sat down to discuss the artist’s life and legacy, and the exhibition Lichtenstein Remembered curated by Blum at Gagosian, New York.

Alison McDonald, Daniel Belasco, and Scott Rothkopf next to each other in front of a live audience

In Conversation
Daniel Belasco and Scott Rothkopf on Roy Lichtenstein

Gagosian and the Art Students League of New York hosted a conversation on Roy Lichtenstein with Daniel Belasco, executive director of the Al Held Foundation, and Scott Rothkopf, senior deputy director and chief curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Organized in celebration of the centenary of the artist’s birth and moderated by Alison McDonald, chief creative officer at Gagosian, the discussion highlights multiple perspectives on Lichtenstein’s decades-long career, during which he helped originate the Pop art movement. The talk coincides with Lichtenstein Remembered, curated by Irving Blum and on view at Gagosian, New York, through October 21.

Helen Marden and Kiki Smith

In Conversation
Helen Marden and Kiki Smith

Ahead of her exhibition in Athens this fall, Helen Marden met with longtime friend Kiki Smith at Marden’s home in New York’s West Village to discuss the bravery of color and the power of intuition.