Josef Schulz, Form @Yossi Milo

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 large scale digital C prints, displayed without frames throughout the main gallery. The images come in three sizes (39×51, 47×63 and 47×106) and the negatives range from 2003-2008 (part of two separate series: Formen and Sachliches). The prints are made in editions of 6. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: If there is a pattern to the work of students of Bernd and Hilla Becher (and more recently Thomas Ruff) from the Dusseldorf Art Academy, it seems to be a shared respect for large format photography, overlaid with an often strict intellectual/conceptual framework. Polish photographer Josef Schulz’ pictures, now on view at Yossi Milo, have all the hallmarks of this educational approach.

The subject matter of Schulz’ photographs is familiar ground: factories, warehouses, storage facilities and other industrial forms. We have seen plenty of these buildings over the past few decades, particularly from the German photographers. What is different and thought-provoking about these pictures is the theoretical inversion that Schulz is playing with. In his pictures, Schulz takes large format images of these industrial structures and then digitally strips away all the contextual information (signs, windows, aging, landscaping, location etc.), leaving behind clean, simple forms of corrugated steel and concrete. He takes the real buildings and breaks them back down into their elemental blocks, leaving them looking like simple architectural models.

These pictures have an eerie silence to them, as if the super perfect futuristic world is still being put together and the people have yet to arrive. (When they do, they’ll certainly all have matching jumpsuits and haircuts.) If you step back from the works as grounded in some kind of reality, they become almost abstract exercises in color, form, shape and volume – design concepts rendered in a CAD software program. Each work travels the same path: the viewer’s mind begins by trying to invent or add back some details of context to make the image “make sense”; when this fails, the viewer is forced into an examination of the building as a generic, and often surprisingly beautiful, form. If you like your photography cool and intellectual, this is a show for you.

The artist’s website can be found here.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced between $10000 and $16000 based on size, which seems a bit high for a first solo show in New York, even if the works are physically quite large. Given the string of stars that have been produced by the Bechers, perhaps this pricing is just a “provenance” effect.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Josef Schulz, Form
Through January 31st

Yossi Milo Gallery
525 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

UPDATE: More Schulz at Conscientious, here.

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