Juergen Teller: Woo!
23 January - 17 March 2013
Review by Adele M. Reed
Now approaching fifty, Teller has shot a vast selection of artists, models, musicians and designers, often building personal friendships with his subjects as he works. His fresh and colourful blown-out flash aesthetic has become instantly recognisable (which can’t have been hurt by having produced Marc Jacobs’ advertising campaigns for the past fifteen years).
Teller attempts to extract a bold inner voice from each portrait he captures, with his personal vision steering well clear of the hackneyed. He offers us a fashion world removed from superficiality. Teller has taken a long, hard look at the basis of the industry and questions it so acutely, yet so subtly, that he has become one of the most sought-after fashion photographers of his generation. He brazenly mocks at the egos who inhabit the business by shooting from unflattering angles and picturing models with make-up smeared across their skin. With this method his images have managed to cross the elusive border between fashion and art.
An archetypal cute kitten is the first thing on view to visitors. A reference point for the softness of his visual mindset or a play on femininity, its placement seems bizarre next to three equally giant Vivienne Westwood nudes. The designer appears entirely comfortable and relaxed with her legs open to the public. Propriety isn’t of any concern to her, and clearly neither is it to Teller. You get the feeling that they may be laughing at us but you’re not exactly sure why. A claustrophobic black-and-white landscape photograph of Kurt Cobain playing a guitar in his lap sits strangely next to her. It all feels like some kind of ultra-pop space to suck in the loitering tourist on the Mall.
Running at a parallel is a more matured series produced in 2012 called “Irene im Wald” featuring the photographer’s mother in a woodland area of Germany. Thematically it’s in stark contrast to the rest of the exhibition; and with its muted, earthen colour-palette and considered landscape format, any long-term follower of Teller’s work could be forgiven for wondering what it was doing there in the first place. However, Teller has left his vigorous impression on all of the world’s glossy magazines. It feels about time for pastures new.
The reading room offers a different visual experience altogether and pulls you directly inside Teller’s hectic archive with brute force. Stubbornly mixing autobiographical documentation with high-profile commissions, he blurs the lines between what is private and personal and what is commercial and public. He presents a coarse mixture of human experiences and reveals our interaction with the world for precisely what it is: often selfish, often dirty, sometimes sordid. People are playful, thoughtful, miserable, and the unifying idea behind much of it is of perfection being illusory. Teller sees no use for pretence of any kind. His images are testament to the frivolity of the spirit, they are self-celebratory, and they poke fun at the culture of beauty.
A smartly presented selection of what feels like some of Teller’s proudest moments is housed upstairs; the musician Björk swimming with her son in Iceland stands out as one of the warmest, the purest. In summary, the exhibition may leave you feeling ever so slightly cast adrift. It is, however, a glorious introduction to Teller’s work for those who are not so familiar with it. The curator’s choices left me curious about the entire arrangement, which in a way is what an exhibition is all about. “Woo!” is open until 17th March.
Juergen Teller : Full Exposure : Courtesy of Crane.tv