Reviewed: “Gute Aussichten: New German Photography” at Goethe-Institut Washington
The 2013-2014 edition of the exhibit “Gute Aussichten: New German Photography” includes an impressively broad selection of nine artists. Unfortunately, the gallery space at the Goethe-Institut Washington is too small to give them the full showing they deserve.
Take Anna Domnick, who has created two multipart series that grapple with “intellectual and physical disintegration.” The walls include only a few of her images—both near-abstractions in shades of pale blue (above) and cream—and they leave a viewer craving more.
Or take Stephanie Steinkopf, who made color documentary images of a tumbledown apartment building in the former East Germany (bottom). The handful of her images in the exhibit are impressive—a boy adrift in a room full of boxed-up possessions, an older girl and boy staring past each other in a stairwell, raised glasses at a Christmastime dinner table that teeters on the edge between joy and desperation—but these are but a fraction of those in the series.
Then there’s Marian Luft. She has just one work in the show, but it’s a doozy—a seven-foot-tall piece of fabric, with every centimeter dazzlingly adorned in full color by contemporary and historical detritus, from historical figures to consumer objects to political symbols.
The rest of the exhibit’s offerings are uneven. Two participants—Christina Werner and Daniel Stubenvoll—offer needlessly opaque series of conceptual art. Two others present worthwhile documentary series—Lioba Keuck, who photographed impoverished African immigrants unexpectedly tilling the soil of urban Lisbon, and Birte Kaufmann, who assembled a bleak portrait of itinerant “travelers” in Ireland. And Nadja Bournonville stitches together an unlikely mix of feminist inquiry into “hysteria” and a playfully off-kilter manipulation of household objects into "homunculi."
But the show’s standout is Alwin Lay, who produced a video of a glass of water perched on a rickety wooden table that towers over an unnaturally white plant in a bowl. The table’s spindly legs have been coated in a sparkle-inducing material, and once this coating is set alight, trails of sparks travel slowly around the length of the legs. At one point, the table hiccups from the flame, but the glass doesn’t spill, and we never see the implosion we were always convinced was coming. It’s a maddening three and a half minutes, but impossible to turn away from.
Through April 26 at Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC. Mon-Thu 9-5, Fri 9-3.