Seeing the Forest for the Trees
May 26 - July 23, 2016
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition, Simone Nieweg: Seeing the Forest for the Trees. In celebration of Nieweg’s 2016 Schirmer/Mosel publication, Der Wald, die Bäume, das Licht, this exhibition features the photographer’s compelling, light-filled images of forests and trees. The series represents 25 years of the artist’s career, and contains photographs taken in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, the south of France, as well as in Southern California.
A work that inspired Nieweg’s photographs of forests and trees is Heinrich Heine’s 1891 poem “Waldeinsamkeit” (Forest Solitude). Heine’s poem playfully extols the virtues of getting lost in the woods. His language is full of childlike awe, referencing woodland creatures (elves and fairies) while finding wonder in the sublime aspects of nature. Heine, in this sense, in Germany’s Thoreau, and “Waldeinsamkeit” sets forth the need for solitary communion with nature. Simone Nieweg’s photographs take up this task: they are still and uninhabited landscapes. The piercing clarity of Nieweg’s imagery, coupled with their scale, and her refined ability to capture the atmosphere of disparate times of day, weather patterns, and places, fully occupies Heine’s Romanticism. However, Nieweg’s photographs offer much more than a picturesque experience of place.
An important precedent for Nieweg’s photographs can be in August Sander’s Rheinlandschaften. These landscape photographs made near the Rhine River were made around 1940, following the arrest of Sander’s son Erich in 1934. A political prisoner, Erich would die in a Nazi prison in 1944. This period of Sander’s work would be marked by a melancholic spirit, as the photographer who was so known for portraiture had turned only silent forests as his subject matter. Though the formal and political circumstances are quite distinct, Nieweg’s interest in the forest is similarly a break from the stark formalism of many of her peers and predecessors (most notably Bernd and Hilla Becher, under whom she studied).
Nieweg’s work has often been marked by an interest in marginal landscapes. She has photographed the community gardens of Germany, for instance, which are often placed in areas that otherwise would go unused (set beside a railroad track, beside a highway overpass, etc.). In addition to the sacred visual experience Nieweg’s photographs of forests and trees offer, we must also recognize how the photographer’s expression of this attitude through the most mundane. Despite their locales, the forests and trees are not exceptional places, nor are the species found therein rare or uncommon. The poetics of each photograph thus result from Nieweg’s careful attention to light and composition, in order to produce a singular visual experience. Each photograph, in this way, serves as a distinct event, as pure as memory.
Seeing the Forest for the Trees is Simone Nieweg’s fourth exhibition with Gallery Luisotti, and her first to include work made in Southern California.