Archive: The Art Institute of Chicago
Throwback: New visual language in the field of photography

Throwback: New visual language in the field of photography

Thomas Struth - Pantheon, Rome, 1990

Thomas Struth - Pantheon, Rome, 1990
Thomas StruthPantheon, Rome, 1990

Thomas Struth is one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary photographers of our time. He is renowned for his black and white photographs of cities such as Düsseldorf and New York, as well as his family portraits. The artist who lives in Dusseldorf acquired his inspiration for his series of Museum Photographs while he was residing in Naples and Rome, where he discovered that there was a connection between paintings of art and religion and how these paintings connect audiences to their spirituality. The Museum Photographs, which was showcased at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, marshaled in a new visual language in the field of photography.

In his series, Struth photographed the art and the visitors viewing it, as well as the viewer observing other audiences. As such, with the many layers of observation, Struth’s intention was to assess the museum’s control of their audience and the criteria that each museum has for exhibiting pieces in the way that it does. The purpose behind the Museum Photographs was to remind people that the iconic subjects of his photographs were once just unfamiliar paintings done by ordinary individuals.

For instance, his Galleria dell’Accademia I, Venice piece shows regular tourists in shorts and casual clothing as they wander around an exhibition hall that is dominated by Paolo Veronese’s 1573 painting The Feast in the House of Levi. Struth’s color print is as large as Veronese’s painting, yet the scene in his photograph is reminiscent of memories of an outing on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. He specifically selected Veronese’s interpretation of the Feast in the House of Levi as a subject because it had a feel of a regular dinner or lunch and it depicted a rather large party atmosphere where people have gathered to drink and make merry. As a result, his photograph of the feast allows today’s audiences to look upon the masterpiece with a new energy and perspective, just like the first time it was put on public display.

For the project, Struth utilized a European 13×18 camera, and he positioned himself strategically so that every photograph he took, whether inside a museum or in the crowded streets of Paris and Vienna, rendered onlookers in random areas, which gives his pictures more power.

In the end, he managed to create a dialogue between photography and paintings, where his choice of paintings echoes his earlier black and white work in Düsseldorf. He effectively manages to bridge the gap between space and time, where the figures in the painting and the figures observing the paintings are connected despite how much time has passed since the paintings were first made public or the space that exists between them.

Thomas Struth - Pergamon Museum I, Berlin, 2001
Thomas StruthPergamon Museum I, Berlin, 2001

Thomas Struth - Pergamon Museum II, Berlin, 2001
Thomas StruthPergamon Museum II, Berlin, 2001

Thomas Struth - Pergamon Museum III, Berlin, 2001
Thomas StruthPergamon Museum III, Berlin, 2001

Thomas Struth - Pergamon Museum VI, Berlin, 1996
Thomas StruthPergamon Museum VI, Berlin, 2001

Thomas Struth - Stanze di Raffaello 2, Rome, 1990
Thomas StruthStanze di Raffaello 2, Rome, 1990

Thomas Struth - Art Institute of Chicago I, Chicago, 1990
Thomas StruthArt Institute of Chicago I, Chicago, 1990

Thomas Struth - Art Institute of Chicago II, Chicago, 1990
Thomas StruthArt Institute of Chicago II, Chicago, 1990

Thomas Struth - Galleria dell'Accademia I, Venice, 1992
Thomas StruthGalleria dell'Accademia I, Venice, 1992

Thomas Struth - Kunsthistorisches Museum III Wien, 1989
Thomas StruthKunsthistorisches Museum III Wien, 1989

Thomas Struth - Louvre 1, Paris, 1989
Thomas StruthLouvre 1, Paris, 1989

Thomas Struth - Louvre 4, Paris, 1989
Thomas StruthLouvre 4, Paris, 1989

Thomas Struth - Pergamon Museum IV, Berlin, 2001
Thomas StruthPergamon Museum IV, Berlin, 2001

Thomas Struth - National Gallery 1, London, 1989
Thomas StruthNational Gallery I, London, 1989

Thomas Struth - National Gallery II, London, 2001
Thomas StruthNational Gallery II, London, 2001

Thomas Struth - Alte Pinakothek, Self Portrait, Munich, 2000
Thomas StruthAlte Pinakothek, Self Portrait, Munich, 2000


Posted in Public Delivery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Free candy in a museum

Free candy in a museum

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago
(Photo mark6mauno Flickr)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piece “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is one of his nineteen candy pieces and featured in many museums around the world. The work targets the topic of a serious nature, one that is still unfortunately often taboo in mainstream society. It takes the topic from the shadows, where individuals still cringe and avert their eyes, and lays it on the table for discussion and contemplation.

The approximate 175 pounds of candy that make up the work resemble the 175-pound body of Ross Laycock, the artists’ boyfriend who died of AIDS in 1991. As each person takes a piece of candy, they in turn act as the AIDS virus depleting Ross’ body, piece be piece taking it away until there is nothing left. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who dedicated his artwork to the one he love and lost, died in 1996 of AIDS.

His work doesn’t only represent the disease and its depletion on the body, but it represents the love between the person who is suffering from the disease and the person who is there to support them and suffer with them. The sweet candy, in and of itself, is a representation of love. If you think about giving candy to a loved one on valentine’s day, sweets in a box with flowers on mother’s day, candy has long been tied to affection and love. While the candy is eaten, while the body begins to disappear, the love remains.

While there has been much development and change since the 80’s and 90’s, there has been no cure and there has remained a stigma attached to the disease. Treatment allows individuals with HIV to live long and fairly normal lives, however there is still much more work needed in the area, and there is need for unstigmatized conversation.

This work of art says so much and is absolutely just as important today as it was in the 90’s. If you ever have the chance, this is a piece you must see.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago

Read more


Posted in Public Delivery | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Public Delivery

Public Delivery