The High is the first U.S. museum to present a new body of work by celebrated German artist Thomas Struth in the touring exhibition “Thomas Struth: Nature & Politics” (Oct. 16, 2016, through Jan. 8, 2017), which is co-organized by the High, the Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany), and Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin), in collaboration with the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Struth is renowned for his innovations in large-scale color photography that span subjects including cityscapes, architecture, portraits, landscapes, museums and technology systems. “Nature & Politics” combines various strands of Struth’s oeuvre in the more than 30 works on view—placing particular focus on technology and the manufactured landscape as overarching themes. The works are global in nature, drawn from Struth’s travels in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and America over the past 10 years, and they include three photographs made in Atlanta in 2013.
“Struth is one of the defining artists of contemporary photography, and his work is striking both for its scale and complexity,” said Gregory Harris, the High’s assistant curator of photography. “This exhibition aligns with the High’s ongoing commitment to presenting photography that is simultaneously internationally significant and regionally relevant. ‘Nature & Politic’ will resonate particularly well with our audiences because it features photographs that Struth created right here in our Atlanta community.”
“Nature & Politics” features works that examine how human ambition and imagination physically manifest in the highly complex constructions that shape our world. Many of the photographs record the structural complexities of remote techno-industrial and scientific research spaces, such as physics institutes, pharmaceutical plants, space stations, dockyards, nuclear facilities and other edifices of technological production. These photographs uncover sites of scientific development—typically kept from public view—where the heights of human knowledge are enacted, debated and advanced. Struth’s images also reveal the layers of politics and the influences of the past and present often found in human-crafted environments.
The works on display include a series of panoramic views of Disneyland that Struth produced to examine the constructed imagination—in this case how Walt Disney’s memories of Europe were manifested in a fantastic yet physical reality. Also featured are images of the contested landscape of Israel and the West Bank, one of Struth’s most recent projects.
The Atlanta works in the exhibition include a photograph from the High’s permanent collection that Struth captured in the Georgia Aquarium. The monumental print, depicting a group of adults and children set against the background of a tank of underwater sea creatures, allows the viewer to feel a part of the scene and emphasizes the wonders of scientific advances and their effect on the way we experience the world. Two other photographs depict robotics workrooms at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines.
Additional works on view include:
- “Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Interior 2, Max Planck IPP, Garching” (2009): This image features the interior of tokamak, a device that confines plasma in the shape of a torus through the use of a magnetic field. The photograph was captured at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Garching, Germany.
- “Space Shuttle 1, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral” (2008): This photograph is among the earlier works featured in the exhibition and examines the confluence of politics and science in NASA’s space program.
- “Figure, Charité, Berlin” (2012): In this image, Struth captures the scene during a surgical operation that was accomplished with the help of the da Vinci Robot.
“Nature & Politics” premiered in March 2016 at the Museum Folkwang and previously traveled to Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (June 11 – Sept. 18, 2016). Following its presentation at the High, the exhibition will be on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum (fall 2017).
The exhibition is curated by Museum Folkwang Director Tobia Bezzola and the High’s former Keough Family Curator of Photography Brett Abbott.
*Photo credit for cover photo: Thomas Struth (German, born 1954), Space Shuttle 1, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, 2008, chromogenic print, 78.5 x 148.3inches.© Thomas Struth