Nowhere is a Place, currently on view at Sean Kelly Gallery, showcases the latest work of German photographer Frank Thiel. For his fifth solo show with the gallery, Thiel presents a grand departure from his best known subject, the disintegrating architectural landscape of Berlin, instead focusing his lens on the glaciers of the Argentine Patagonia. Traveling to Los Glaciares National Park in 2011 and 2012, Thiel captures the colossal ice fields in vivid high definition, printed on a massive scale meant to match his subject’s monumentality.
Thiel has received international acclaim for his photographs that document the transformation of Berlin’s urban makeup post-unification. Close-ups of the peeling paint on abandoned buildings, dilapidated and deteriorating structures, construction sites and scaffolding are framed as indices of change, subtle markers of social and political metamorphosis. He summons the physical remains of cultural shifts, attuned to their reflections of a rapidly evolving history, inspecting the urban topography with almost archeological focus.
Moving from the built environment to a natural one, Thiel maintains his scrutiny of the landscape and penetrating observation of surface details. The glacial subject enables a continued engagement with themes of temporality, decay and transformation, yet spread over the plodding pace of prehistory. He showcases both the fragility and resilience of these magnificent frozen edifices, which soar hundreds of feet above water level to dramatic bitter peaks. Perito Moreno #01, a five-panel work, itself thirty feet long, offers a panorama of the glacier’s 18-mile edge, a splintering facade of titanic ice cliffs that bespeak a process of change and formation far more ancient and gradual than any human construction. He presents endless fields of mammoth icicles, splinting like burnt wood, striations in ancient layers of ice, primitive timelines engraved in the arctic thaw. In examining this organic architecture, Thiel discovers formal patterns, geometric rhythms manifested on the weathered surfaces of derelict buildings and geological phenomena alike.
Indeed, there is a painterly quality to his photographs, in their composed structural orientation and subtle chromatic density. Thiel reveals the profusion of color within ice itself, a spectrum of royal blues and charcoal, even emerald green. The textured surfaces are densely packed with details—shadowed crags and cracks, sparkling crystalline peaks. These works are as grand as the Hudson River School paintings, exalting in the majesty of their raw forms, announcing the sublime beauty of nature.
Nowhere is a Place is on view through March 22nd.
Exhibition Page [Sean Kelly Gallery]