Thomas Demand: Dailies 2008-2014 at Sprüth Magers, Oranienburger St, Berlin, from September 18 to November 1, 2014
The printed works are relatively small, yet achieve an intensity that goes beyond their source material: phone snapshots of minor, offhand scenes, such as a laundry line or an abandoned ice-cream cup. The Dailies have been exhibited widely, from Australia to New York, as well as Sprüth Magers London, in 2012. This is the first time they are exhibited in Germany and will include the two latest works, Daily #22 and #23 (both 2014).
The everyday subject matter is put into sharp relief by the richness of the colours, which Demand achieves by making each print with the labour-intensive method of dye-transfer, a process that involves fixing dyes with gelatine to ordinary paper. Demand chose this process for its saturated colours, spatial depth, intense darkness, as well as the durability of the pigments, all elements that serve to emphasise the formal power of the photographs. Even if the photograph depicts little more than an ephemeral model of a straw and cup lid tossed onto the pavement, the print itself is a delicately crafted object.
The Dailies reflect the pervasive photo-snapping culture of the present day, the current urge to seize and share any momentary scene or event, yet Demand brings a forceful intensity to these everyday scenes. The full contrasts and dynamic compositions often bring to mind modernist and geometrical abstraction. A bathroom mirror, reminiscent of a restaurant anywhere, becomes an angled grid, suggesting a Suprematist composition. Venetian blinds, messed up and radiating a blue glow, could be a readymade Rothko. A clear plastic glass, half-full of yellow liquid, sits precariously on a windowsill. Partially reflected in the window behind it, the composition is as tense and balanced as the scene it depicts. In one of the two recent Dailies, #22, a small ice-cream cup sits abandoned on a ledge, the handle of its purple spoon extending into the foreground, casting a small shadow. Behind, the vertical lines of a dark grey barrier intersect with the dull beige of a ledge. A gentle shadow wraps itself around the white ice-cream cup, creating a compact area of subtle tonal gradations. Above all, this is a spatial construction, an abstraction attentive to tone, composition, and internal coherence. The Dailies highlight these spaces of everyday beauty, suggesting that even a glimpse of a disposable scene can be transformed into an object of infinite contemplation.
Thomas Demand (born 1964, Munich) lives in Los Angeles and Berlin. Solo exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, the Kaldor Public Art Project #25, Sydney (both 2012), the Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2010), the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2009-10), the MUMOK, Vienna (2009), the Hamburger Kunsthalle (2008), the Fondazione Prada, Venice (2007), the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Lenbachhaus, Munich (both 2006), MoMA, New York (2005), the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2004), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2003), and the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2002). He also represented Germany at the 26th São Paulo Biennale (2004).