Freedom From The Known is Wolfgang Tillmans' first exhibition for an American museum and unlike any he has ever previously mounted. The exhibition focuses on the artist's purely abstract photographs, and explores the presence abstraction has had within his figurative and representational work. Twenty-four of the twenty-five large-scale works on view were produced specifically for this exhibition and have never before been shown. Freedom From The Known is on view from February 26 through May 29, 2006.
Tillmans' large-scale abstractions are presented in frames—a departure for an artist who pioneered a style of installation based on taping and pinning pictures directly to the wall. The elusive, transitory images in the abstractions, when framed, can be seen as objects in space, displaying both buoyancy and weight. Most of these works are camera-less pictures made by the direct manipulation of light on paper, rather than on a negative.
Alongside the abstract works, a group of figurative/representational photographs from the series Empire, based on pictures Tillmans made between 1991 and 2002, are on view. The original pictures used for Empire were either passed through a photocopy or fax machine, then scanned to the highest possible resolution, turned into large-scale C-prints and framed. Due to the large format, minor surface incidents are intentionally enhanced, along with the grain and grit.
A selection of earlier photographs is also included to provide a context for Tillmans' passage from figurative and representational imagery to abstraction. They reveal how he opens up his work to the possibility of accidental and chance intervention.
The German-born and London-based Tillmans (b. 1968) has been the subject of numerous museum and gallery exhibitions over the past fifteen years. He was a recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize in 2000, awarded by Tate Britain. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago will present his first American museum retrospective opening on May 20, 2006.
Freedom From The Known is organized by P.S.1 Curatorial Advisor Bob Nickas. A fully-illustrated publication by Steidl, designed by the artist and featuring an essay by Nickas, will be published to coincide with the exhibition.