EXHIBITION Sep 18, 2004 — Jan 15, 2005
Götz Diergarten’s work is about typology – as is the work of his famous teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher, with their comparable series of furnaces and half-timbered houses. Although Diergarten’s artistic concept is similar, he has chosen a very special type of building to document: the beach hut. These constructions are an expression of a specific swimming and bathing culture found on the French Normandy and Belgian coasts. The huts are placed side by side in long rows, as if they are offering themselves up for comparison. The general type is strictly mandated by the local authorities and usually resembles an oversized doghouse. Size, shape and color are predefined yet none-the-less each hut is original and unique. The prescribed green color is never the same, and the application of the paint itself is as different as the surfaces, streaks or borders the paint is meant to cover. If the walls are supposed to remain pure white, as is sometimes obligatory, the choices of material or varying window styles individualize the type of house. Diergarten recently photographed four various series of beach huts in Belgium with a large format view camera for the most part. Each series contains an overview image along with individual house ‘portraits’, which are sometimes presented singly and other times in groupings of three. The picture sequencing guides the viewer’s attention to the variations in the details among the many examples of this type of hut. At the same time, it is in their collectivity that the beach huts reveal the features of their type.
Götz Diergarten was born in 1972 in Mannheim. His typological approach continues the great legacy of the Becher School into the second generation. His photographs have the same conceptual rigour and exactness, but instead of exploiting the sculptural effect of the subject in its rendering, he uses the painterly effect of color. Color as a means of pictorial expression is not accidental for Diergarten. It gives expression to what is individual within the standard category of ‘beach hut’.
Diergarten’s color images caused a sensation at this year’s Armory Show in New York and at the Art Basel. He gives every indication of repeating the great success of his artistic predecessors from the Becher School. However, it would be a mistake to view Diergarten as merely the keeper and successor of a great tradition (which is not exhausted by the name Becher). His affinity to American color photography – for example to William Eggleston and Stephen Shore – should be kept in mind. Diergarten’s originality is based above all on the conceptual coupling of typology and color. Accompanying the four series of Belgian beach houses, the Gallery Kicken Berlin is also showing a selection of work from an earlier series on the theme of facades. Diergarten’s picture sequencing transforms the apparent banality of plaster, imitation siding, window, glass and garage doors into a typology of the respectable German middle class world. The serial repetition of this unsophisticated facade aesthetic in its ever-renewed look of the 60’s and 70’s tells quite a lot about the everyday world, although (or because) Diergarten is so thoroughly artificial in his method. Within his visual scheme – frontal view, diffuse light and close cropping – the type exhibits its variations. It may be surprising to realize that an apparently subconscious leaning towards abstraction can be found in the otherwise cautious German way of life. Without Diergarten’s exploration into typology, this would have possibly never come to light. With his attention focused on the signs and spaces of everyday culture, Diergarten establishes a connection with artists such as Walker Evans, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Werner Mantz, or Bernd and Hilla Becher. Diergarten also takes the everyday world as an aesthetic phenomenon seriously. Beach hut or house facades are not solely in service to their function, but also deserve to be noticed for the qualities of their form and color. Every nuance of the type is a part of our culture. (Ronald Berg)