Astrid Klein Petrified Vision 1985

Artwork details

Astrid Klein born 1951
Petrified Vision
Versteinerte Vision
Date 1985
Medium Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions Image: 2469 x 3596 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1988
Not on display

Catalogue entry

T05034 Petrified Vision 1985 Versteinerte Vision

Black-and-white photograph on three overlapping sheets of photographic paper, each 2469 × 1267 (97 1/4 × 49 7/8); overall size 2469 × 3596 (97 1/4 × 141 1/2)
Not inscribed
Purchased from Produzentengalerie, Hamburg (Grant-in-Aid) 1988
Exh: Astrid Klein, Produzentengalerie, Hamburg, Oct.–Nov. 1985 (no number, repr. [pp.8–9, 10 and, installation view, 14]); L'Occhio dell'artista, L'Occhio della camera/Das Auge des Künstlers, Das Auge der Kamera, Loggetta Lombardesca, Ravenna, Dec. 1985–Feb. 1986, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, March–April 1986 (no number, repr. p.86); Reste des Authentischen, Deutsche Fotobilder der 80er Jahre/Remnants of the Authentic, German Photography of the '80s, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen, May–June 1986, Impressions Gallery of Photography, York, Sept.–Oct. 1986 (no number, repr. [pp.44–5]); Aperto 86, 42nd Venice Biennale, Arsenale, Venice, June–Sept. 1986 (no number, as ‘Petrified Image’); Art from Europe, Tate Gallery, April–June 1987 (no number, repr. p.31)
Lit: Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, ‘... Darstellen, was man nicht sieht...: Anmerkungen zu den Fotoarbeiten von Astrid Klein’, Noema Art Magazine, no.9, Nov.–Dec. 1986, pp.77–9, repr.; Catherine Lacey, ‘Astrid Klein’ in Art from Europe, exh. cat., Tate Gallery 1987, pp.11–12, repr. p.31. Also repr: Astrid Klein, exh. cat., Ausstellungshallen Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt 1987, [p.13]

‘Petrified Vision’ is a large, unique, black-and-white photographic montage of several images. The upper half appears to be a greatly enlarged image of a rough, pitted wall. The lower half of the image cannot be easily identified, but could be read as flames, or as a mounted procession riding past a crowd of people. According to Catherine Lacey, ‘figures appear to melt into the rock-face, the image is undermined, and the photograph becomes unreliable, as an interpretative reading is deflected’ (Lacey 1987, p.12).

Klein produces photographic images on a large scale to make what she refers to as ‘photoworks’, distinguishing them from straightforward photographs. She uses images taken from newspapers and magazines. These found reproductions are often quite small and Klein enlarges and transforms the visual information they contain (the images themselves, as well as the grid raster by which they are photomechanically reproduced) by subjecting them to a variety of processing and printing techniques. These include enlargement, photomontage (sometimes combining positive and negative images), double exposure, negatives which are sandwiched together to produce an overlaid image, etching the negative, and the use of masking and stencilling. The resulting works, unique images derived from mass-produced sources, are often difficult to read and contradict common assumptions about photography as a documentary medium that accurately and clearly records physical phenomena. According to Lacey, ‘it is by removing her images from their accepted context that she goes beyond superficial representation in search of a new state or meaning. Her use of black and white photography has reinforced an atmosphere of documentary seriousness’ (ibid., p.11).

Klein began working with photography in 1978. Her early works were based on themes of human tragedy and often combined texts with images. The mood of anxiety apparent in many of her works of the mid-1980s, some of which include outlines of human figures and architectural features, is present in a key work of the period called ‘Endzeitgefühle’, 1981 (‘Intimations about the End of Time’, repr. Astrid Klein, Rudolf Bonvie. Fotoarbeiten, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Bielefeld 1985, [pp.71–2]), a modified version of which was installed in the Underground at Hamburg's main railway station in 1982 (repr. Darmstadt exh. cat., 1987, [p.14] in col.). ‘Endzeitgefühle’ suggested foreboding for the future, arising perhaps from an uncomfortable past. It achieved this using a montage of motifs - a leaping dog, the outline of a human figure and the blank wall of a building - which themselves are untainted, but which when combined suggested disquiet and menace. Klein's titles, in which clusters of nouns are combined in a manner that suggests negative experiences, appear to operate in similar manner.

‘Petrified Vision’ is typical of the photoworks Klein was making in the mid-1980s, both in its scale and imagery. Related works, in which Klein similarly combined suggestions of human figures set against a roughly-textured wall, are: ‘Zustand abgesichert’, 1984 (‘State of Security’, repr. Bielefeld exh. cat., [p.69]) and ‘Vernichtungspoesie’, 1985 (‘Poetry of Annihilation’, repr. Hamburg exh. cat., 1985, [p.11]).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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