Thomas Struth’s Middle East photographs at the Aspen Art Museum | AspenTimes.com

Thomas Struth’s Middle East photographs at the Aspen Art Museum

Staff report

The acclaimed German artist Thomas Struth is exhibiting his complete photographic series on the Middle East for the first time in an exhibition that will open at the Aspen Art Museum today.

The series includes 18 monumental images suggestive of Struth's early city and street photographs, as well as a duo of intimate group family portraits all shot during six trips the artist made to Israel and Palestine between 2009 and 2014. Some of the pieces are as large as 4.5 feet by nearly 7 feet.

Associated with the Düsseldorf School of Photography alongside artists like Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer and Thomas Ruff, he came to prominence in 1978 with a series of carefully composed black-and-white New York cityscapes that debuted at the Institute for Art and Urban Resources (now MoMA PS1).

Struth created subsequent city series of Paris, Rome, Tokyo and other international urban centers, each sharing quiet, muted tonalities and compositions largely devoid of human figures or urban activity. Instead, they prioritize each locale's built, architectural environments over any traditional depictions of bustling street culture.

He may be best known for his photos of people in museums around the world, which displayed a deadpan humor and wry observations. In a review of the museum photos for The New York Times in 2007, critic Michael Kimmelman wrote that Struth "discloses these little bits of humanity, which seem ordinary, but which leap out, collapsing time."

The Middle East series showcases Struth photographing within the political climates of East Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Golan Heights, Ramallah, Al-Khalil/Hebron, Nazareth and Negev, offering a point of view that conveys rich, vivid, emotional and physical narratives of place to the spectator.

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"As an artist who has always been politically conscious and interested in the organization of society," he said of the photos, "I was not sure what it meant to work in a conflict zone, or if you can do justice to it at all. … A landscape doesn't need me, you, or anybody. It becomes interesting if it can be the ground plan for human experience, projection or desire."

IF YOU GO …

What: Thomas Struth photography exhibition

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Jan. 19 through June 10

How much: Free

More info: http://www.aspenartmuseum.org