The artist portraits by the German photographer Lothar Wolleh (1930–1979) and the Hungarian photographer Lenke Szilágyi (*1959) offer parallel insights into the art world of West Germany and Eastern Europe in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An exciting artistic encounter between two photographers who never met.
In Lothar Wolleh's pictures, the artists he captured through a lens stand before us as symbols of their own creative self on the stylized stage created by the photographer. Lothar Wolleh captures the personality of his models with astonishing sensitivity and makes this visible with the help of pictorial elements. He expands the inner self to the entire surface of the picture, thus merging the person and the photo.
In the simple, unaffected photographs of Lenke Szilágyi we believe we can make out private individuals hiding behind the mask of well-known artistic personalities. However, this is an illusion. When she presses the camera's shutter button, the photographer involuntarily manipulates her subject: the pose, the lighting conditions, the background, indicative of the model's profession, and the composition. Man continues to wear his mask.
At first glance, the styles that Lothar Wolleh and Lenke Szilágyi pursue in their pictorial work embody two opposite poles of portrait photography, but their photographs fulfill the same mission: to portray the artist as a cultural and social symbol. What conclusions do the viewers come to when they look at the portraits from a distance of thirty, forty or fifty years? Do we see the conflict between Western and Eastern Europe or just the works of two artists with different habitus?
On the occasion of Beuys' 100th birthday in 2021, the photo exhibition will be accompanied by a projection of documentary photographs that were taken during the preparatory work for the Stockholm exhibition by Joseph Beuys in 1971 and are located in the Lothar Wolleh Archive. Parallel to the exhibition, the show Joseph Beuys and Lothar Wolleh: The Underwater Book Project can be seen in the Lothar Wolleh Raum in Berlin.