Simone Nieweg: Gardens
June 25 – Sept 10, 2022
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce Gardens, its fifth exhibition with landscape photographer Simone Nieweg. Taken during long and observant walks through the German countryside in the 1990s and 2000s, these images revisit the vital stage of the artist’s career dedicated to agriculture, perhaps familiar to some visitors from earlier shows. With her uncompromising patience and careful attention to lighting and color, Nieweg focuses here on eccentrically shaped vegetables, degrading compost piles somehow teeming with life, and individual plots (in some cases, fallow, and in others, meticulously cared-for and planted in tidy rows). These motifs serve as meditations on small-scale subsistence agriculture.
Simone Nieweg (*1962 in Bielefeld, Germany) studied photography from 1984 to 1989 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, completing her education with Bernd Becher’s master class. After the war in Germany, there was a deficit of photography equipment, leading students to learn on 5 x 7 inch view cameras, the only inexpensive and widely available option at the time. Nieweg rigorously restricts herself to this technique still today. Reminiscent of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s famous typologies of dilapidated industrial structures, a monotonous grey sky is prominent in many shots. Nonetheless, Nieweg still finds striking shadows – casted, for example, by a makeshift fence or tree stump – and a variety of warming colors. The heavy turquoise of copper gives body to the fog’s blue tint, dried grass and straw echo the rust of nearby aging steel.
Nieweg’s photography draws on a rich and over 500-year-old tradition in European oil painting, the landscape genre. While her images certainly reach back to works of the Dutch Golden Age, with their wide-open skies and far-reaching plains, they are more closely related to works of Pissarro, who studied the shifts in rural and peasant life brought about by the outbreak of urban modernity. Continuing his legacy, Nieweg doesn’t seek a romanticized version of nature transposed outside of time. Instead, she shows us what it looks like when urban dwellers supplement their diets by growing their own vegetables. These imperfect gardens – dubbed “immigrant gardens” by Nieweg – are not fully legal, springing up before or after city development. Her version of nature is humble, profane, and a bit opportunistic.
Simone Nieweg has been exhibited on both the West and the East Coast, as well as widely throughout Europe. Her work is collected by prestigious institutions, such as MoMA, SF MoMA, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, and many others. A selection of her landscape and garden photos was published by Schirmer and Mosel in 2002.