The proliferation of lens-based mechanisms developed since the turn of the century has added to the possibilities of visual communication and, more contentiously, voyeurism and surveillance. Through devices such as cell phone cameras and online webcams, the world has become more visually connected—and exposed. In response, many artists are now exploiting such technology to help facilitate their artwork. German photographer Michael Wolf (b. 1954), whose exhibition "iseeyou" is now on view at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery through December 24, is among them.
For his most recent series, Street Views, Wolf explored the streets of Paris and New York via the Street View function in Google Maps. This platform, released three years ago by Google, enabled Wolf to approach some of the most photographed cities in the world, but this time from a new perspective. By scouring Google's "ready-made" Street Views, Wolf looked for bizarre, intimate, and often candid interactions. And he found plenty: a motorcyclist flipping off the camera, say, or a woman standing bare naked along the coast of an ocean. In the gallery setting, his cropped appropriations stand as large-scale raster images, intentionally blurred and attractively pixelated.
For his other bodies of work included in the exhibition — Tokyo Compression, Architecture of Density, and Transparent City — Wolf photographed with a telephoto lens. As a result, the photographer bares a genuine sense of detachment from his subjects. Whether it's passengers crammed against the glass of a Tokyo subway car or high rises in Hong Kong or open-faced office buildings in Chicago, Wolf's photographs all reflect on the public-versus-private dichotomy inherent with living and working in a city. By studying these urban centers as well as the social contracts of their inhabitants, Wolf's photographs give one a greater sense of how municipalities function and, in many cases, allow one to see these cities anew.
In concurrence with the "iseeyou" exhibition, Wolf also acted as Curator for an exhibition of photographs by renowned Hungarian photographer André Kertész (1894-1985). Titled "City Views," this supplementary exhibition features some of Kertész's photographs of New York City from the 1960s and 70s that happen to share many of the same subjects and techniques as Wolf's photographs: office buildings at night, high vantage points, and city scenes open to the public view. The inclusion of Kertész's telephoto imagery establishes compositional and symbolic interplay with Wolf's photographs while also providing a significant historical reference.