There’s a maximal-minimal synergy in the shows by fellow German artists Isa Genzken and Wolfgang Tillmans, on view next door to each other in David Zwirner’s 19th Street spaces. Where Genzken channels minimalism’s penchant for commercial materials more than its style in her riotously dressed mannequins and two-dimensional abstractions, Tillmans’s understated photographs attain maximalist sensibilities through his signature display style—variously framed, pinned to the wall or laid flat on tables.
Tillmans’s first exhibition since joining the powerhouse gallery in 2014 comprises more than 100 images and a video, which mix personal and political content with more conceptual material. The subjects range from revelers at dance clubs and young activists to architecture, nature and abstract images exploring photographic processes. Rows of small snapshot portraits juxtapose Tillmans’s cultural superstar friends—including Patti Smith, Tino Sehgal and Genzken—with lesser-known urbanites.
Tillmans gained renown for flattening the hierarchy of photography distribution between the art world and commercial venues like magazines. Today his insistence on the physical presence of images in a world of screens has political and even metaphysical implications. But don’t think he’s abandoned his queer punk style for navel-gazing and documentary. The most searing image from this show may well be a blown-up photo of a man’s taint and scrotum hung at eye level, giving in-your-face context to the material surrounding it.
Pictured: Installation view of Wolfgang Tillmans’s exhibition “PCR” at David Zwirner, New York. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York.