Date of Lecture: 1995-01-20
While at the Dusseldorf Academy from 1973-80, Thomas Struth was exposed to the formative influence of photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. The rigorous aesthetic of the pair’s typological studies of industrial structures influenced Struth’s later methodology and informed his objective, systematic approach to subject matter. Struth’s first exhibited works were exactingly composed, black-and-white images of barren streetscapes. In the mid-1980s, Struth embarked on a series of individual and family portraits in which expressive and narrative nuances were carefully limited, resulting in ambiguously self-possessed presentations of character.
Through his work with portraiture, Struth developed an interest in Renaissance painting that eventually resulted in his Museum Photographs series. For this project, Struth photographed well-known artworks within their institutional contexts. Both the contemporary public and the museum’s architecture contribute to the paintings’ extended pictorial space and thus raise questions as to the viewer’s own role within a constantly changing and de-contextualized historical continuum.
Struth spoke on the occasion of an exhibition of his work, Strangers and Friends (January 18 – April 9) at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The first American retrospective of Struth’s work opened at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2002 and will travel to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.