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David Zwirner opens Wolfgang Tillmans's first exhibition in Hong Kong at its newly opened gallery
Installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans , David Zwirner, Hong Kong, 2018 © Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong.

HONG KONG.- David Zwirner is presenting Wolfgang Tillmans’s first exhibition in Hong Kong at its newly opened gallery in H Queen’s, Central. Following the artist’s solo exhibitions at Tate Modern, London (2017), Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2017), Kunstverein in Hamburg (2017), and most recently his first show in Africa at the Musée d’Art Contemporain et Multimédias in Kinshasa (2018), this presentation will feature a broad selection of works that respond to their surroundings and simultaneously embody a self-contained environment. Including many new photographs not publicly shown before, the exhibition will juxtapose pictures of friendship and affection with views and angles of the world at large. An audio work in the stairwell generated from sounds of nearby pedestrian crossings adds a distinctly local dimension.

Few artists have shaped the scope of contemporary art and influenced a younger generation more than Tillmans. Since the early 1990s, his works have epitomized a new kind of subjectivity in photography, pairing intimacy and playfulness with social critique and the persistent questioning of existing values and hierarchies. Through his seamless integration of genres, subjects, techniques, and exhibition strategies, he has expanded conventional ways of approaching the medium, and his practice continues to address the fundamental question of what it means to create pictures in an increasingly image-saturated world. Spread across the two floors of the Hong Kong gallery, the exhibition will present recent developments in Tillmans’s portraiture and still lifes, beginning with an infrared self-portrait in which light is blocked out to allow for electromagnetic radiation to reveal thermal energy. Various other processing strategies are deployed throughout the works on view, with figurative scenes interspersed with abstract photographs composed on a photocopying machine and Xeroxes containing text fragments.

Moving between private, public, and natural spaces, the works in the exhibition continue the artist’s investigation of the surface of the visible world and the limits of what can be seen. A wall-sized aerial view of the Sahara desert has almost infinite detail due to the high resolution capacities of digital imaging, but it remains an enigmatic landscape; an image of women playing cards on an evening street in Hong Kong taken without flash would have resolution capacities of digital imaging, but it remains an enigmatic landscape; an image of women playing cards on an evening street in Hong Kong taken without flash would have been impossible without recent advances in photographic technology; a still life of aquatic plants and animals reveals what is otherwise hidden beneath the ocean surface; and images of border crossings depict territorial differences that are materially invisible.

The surface of the photograph itself is a persistent subject of interest for Tillmans, and his careful combination of small and large formats, and framed and unframed prints, serves to underscore the notion of the photographic image as an object subjective and idiosyncratic. The chalk dust covering the façade and grounds of a West Virginia limestone-grinding factory alludes to the photographic surface, as chalk is used in the printing process to absorb ink. This work is juxtaposed with a seascape in which a man plunges into the waves. Frozen at a fast shutter speed, the splashes of water another integral element in inkjet printing no longer appear liquid, but rather take on a solid mineral appearance.

At a time when photography is omnipresent, Tillmans offers a poignant reminder of its singularity. In line with his interest in exhibitions as amplifiers of a particular underlying perspective, each of the works in this presentation engages in an intricate system of relationships between its aesthetic elements, subjects, and the institutional setting in which it is displayed. Parallels and contrasts between compositions serve to compress a sense of both time and space, minimizing the importance of the distinction between the here and there, and the then and now. These connections, in turn, are played out within the discrete rooms of the exhibition, which comprise individual perspectives of their own. Seen together, the works implicate the viewer as an active part of the dialogue and advocate an experience of connectedness that is rooted in the process of looking.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed in close collaboration with Tillmans and published by David Zwirner Books. Titled DZHK Book 2018, the book will include an interview with the artist by Allie Biswas. David Zwirner Books will host a special book signing with the artist on March 28, 2018 at 2 pm at David Zwirner Hong Kong.

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