3 Mar — 15 Apr 2023
Unbewusste Orte / Unconscious Places
thomas struth

Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to present the exhibition Unbewusste Orte / Unconscious Places by Thomas Struth in Bleibtreustraße 45, Berlin.

Thomas Struth's work is characterised by the careful and long-term pursuit of themes which, in different variations, revolve around the human relationship to the environment. Over the course of five decades, the artist has created seven large bodies of work, some of which are now completed, while others are still ongoing. Struth's artistic practice began in the 1970s, with quotidian photographs of mostly empty streets, that were presented for the first time in 1987 in a large solo exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern, entitled ‘Unbewusste Orte’ (Unconscious Places).

The title, from which this first body of works takes its name, directs the focus of observation towards the unconscious psychosocial impact of urban spaces, defined by both the architects who built them and the inhabitants who use them. In addition to cities in Europe and North America, the photographs explore different sites around the world with an analytical, searching gaze. Over the course of time, Struth's method of working has shifted from the strict composition of the central perspective to a pictorial language which departs from this original scheme and adapts to the architectural set-up of the individual urban spaces.

Struth’s ‘Unconscious Places’, alongside his ‘Museum Photographs’, are amongst his best-known works today. Aside from major retrospectives, however, there have been few opportunities to take a comprehensive look at the artist’s streetscape photographs. The last time the works were shown alone as a group was in an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bonn in 1995. At the invitation of architect David Chipperfield, Struth also devised a survey presentation for the 13th Architecture Biennale in Venice, 2012.

Presenting more than 30 photographs, the exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler offers a chance to revisit this historic group of works, mostly developed in analogue black and white. On display are works made between 1978 and 2005 in Rome, Tokyo, Berlin, and St. Petersburg, among other places. Returning to the beginnings of the ‘Unconscious Places’ in the final room of the exhibition, a comparative discussion is provoked through the placement of two recent photographs from Struth’s ‘Nature & Politics’. In 2022 the artist worked at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, which specialises in quantum research. His meticulously detailed images of their technical facilities are presented beside a selection of New York streets that the artist took in 1978 at the age of 23. Here, as past meets present, we are invited to re-examine both groups of works. What parallels and continuities can be discerned in the artist’s working methods and pictorial approach? We are left to wonder how much of Struth's ‘Unconscious Places’ can be found in the photographs of technology, whose sculptural motifs similarly reveal the manifest influence of the people absent in the images.

Thomas Struth, Campo de' Fiori, Rome 1988, photograph