In his playful series 9 Objekts, Gerhard Richter ironically inverts the function of the camera to deliver photographs of impossible wooden structures that seem to rhyme with M.C. Escher’s drawings of perpetual staircases and gravity-defying waterfalls. Astonishingly, Richer produced these more than two decades before Photoshop. In Foto Europa: 1840 to Present, the Detroit Institute of Arts offers eclectic highlights of European photography from its permanent collection.
19th century photographs on exhibit include a portrait of Italian operatic megastar Gioachino Rossini taken by Nadar, one of the earliest developers of photography. The DIA generously represents Victorian England’s Julia Margaret Cameron with several characteristically blurry portraits which famously infuriated many of her contemporaries who thought her painterly style undermined the documentary purpose of photography.
Experimental 20th century abstract photographs by Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy demonstrate artistic photography pushing away from mere literal representation. Even those not familiar with contemporary French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre will almost certainly immediately recognize their work, often reproduced in ironically luxurious coffee-table books such as The Ruins of Detroit; here they offer a confrontationally large image of Detroit’s once majestic Eastown Theatre, now eerily evocative of an abandoned, post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Photo Europa: 1840 to Present runs through April 27, 2014 and is free with an admission ticket to the DIA and is well worth the visit.