London – Candida Höfer: “A Return to Italy” at Ben Brown Fine Arts Through April 12th 2013

April 10th, 2013

Candida Höfer, Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

Candida Höfer, Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

Ben Brown Fine Arts in London presents work by German photographer Candida Höfer, showcasing the artists masterful control, precision, and detail in capturing the grandiosity of Italian Renaissance architecture.  The exhibition, which features images of brightly lit, cavernous interiors of several ornate Italian buildings, depict these majestic spaces as part of the everyday, highlighting the grandeur of the Italian architectural tradition.

Candida Höfer, "A Return to Italy" (Installation View), via Ben Brown Fine Arts
Candida Höfer, A Return to Italy (Installation View), via Ben Brown Fine Arts

Höfer’s photographs are exacting, illuminating as many details as possible within the enormous spaces she photographs. Her work is defined and informed by the German concept of stimmig (inherent consistency and harmony), seeking balance and symmetry in the daunting interiors of opera houses, palaces and estates in Northern Italy. The photographs were designed to be used by the institutions that run the buildings she has photographed, removing any indication of human scale or presence.

Candida Höfer, Museo Civico Di Palazzo Te Mantova IV (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

Höfer began practicing photography in 1976, the product of courses at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie with photography instructor Bernd Becher, known for his black and white images of industrial structures. Initially she took on a documentary approach, producing images of Turkish immigrant workers and their families in Cologne and Düsseldorf, but later branched into the exploration space itself, particularly building interiors. Since then, Höfer has sought to “share the character of the space as comprehensively as possible with the viewer.”

Candida Höfer, Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts
Candida Höfer, Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

Pictured in Höfer’s work, for example, is the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, northern Italy.  The theater, completed in 1585, was commissioned to Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and begun in 1580, but he left only a sketch for the screen at the back of the stage before dying 6 months later. The famous sketch was then interpreted and finished by Vincenzo Scamozzi, and the structure was commpleted 5 years later. Höfer’s image opens space and time for a conversation about the artists who designed the structure itself, rather than focusing on the actors creating new works inside the theater.

Candida Höfer, Teatro La Fenice Di Venezia V (2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts
Candida Höfer, Teatro La Fenice Di Venezia V (2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

While interested in “the effects of space and light on the human spirit,” Höfer’s depictions here are limited to the architectural.  She demonstrates the ability of humans (the viewers) to interact with and relate to images of space and light alone, while simultaneously underlining their absence from the space. The audience is left to admire the functional spaces of libraries, theaters, and opera spaces as works of art in themselves, removed from the hand that created them.  Her exhibition closes on April 12th.

Candida Höfer "A Return to Italy" (Installation View), via Ben Brown Fine Arts
Candida Höfer, A Return to Italy (Installation View), via Ben Brown Fine Arts

Candida Höfer, Teatro Comunale di Carpi I, (2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts
Candida Höfer, Teatro Comunale di Carpi I(2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

Candida Höfer, Palazzo Ducale Mantova I(2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Ben Brown Fine Arts]
FT Magazine [Time and Space]