Social Surface

Zabludowicz Collection‘s upcoming show, You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred, takes it title from a phrase used by Jeff Wall in a conversation with fellow artist Lucas Blalock, published in 2013. Wall advocates for an art that through formal and conceptual experimentation can somehow exceed our everyday reality or ‘social surface’. The exhibition focuses on the work of 14 artists who use our shared photographic language as the basis of such experimentation. Rather than avoiding commercial images, cultural iconography or personal snapshots, the instant familiarity of photography is used and reworked as source material to provoke feelings of the uncanny or the unknown.

Lucas Blalock, Anne Collier, Sara Cwynar, Natalie Czech, Andreas Gursky, Elad Lassry, Richard Prince, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Erin Shirreff, Wolfgang Tillmans, Sara VanDerBeek, Jeff Wall and Christopher Williams all use photography as a tool with which to question the boundaries between past and present, the factual and the fictional. Drawing from the gallery’s own collection, the works have been produced over a 40 year period and therefore highlight the longstanding existence of this creative process.

Reflecting the numerous strategies of production and display that co-exist within art photography today, the exhibition features framed prints, wall-sized installations, light boxes and digital videos. Collectively, it maps the transition from the ‘decisive moment’ of street photography to picture making that instead emphasises various types of slowness, including the analysis and appropriation of images, the cinematic staging of situations, and the manipulation of digital files.

Display highlights include the UK premiere of Sara Cwynar’s video Soft Film, 2016, a print from Cindy Sherman’s highly influential early series, Untitled Film Still No. 41, 1979, and a major early work by Wolfgang Tillmans, Berlin installation 1995-2000, 2000, which comprises 31 images arranged in a single composition. Images by Lucas Blalock and Andreas Gursky point to the varied uses of digital technology to manipulate images, and in works by Christopher Williams and Erin Shirreff, contemporary responses to specific moments from art history and 20th century photography can be seen.

A new full-colour publication includes representations of works from the exhibition and a commissioned essay from David Campany, a round-table discussion moderated by artist and writer Chris Wiley featuring Lucas Blalock, Sara Cwynar and Erin Shirreff, and a text by exhibition curator Paul Luckraft. The presentation will be accompanied by a public programme of live events and talks.

You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred, 30 March – 9 July, Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road, London NW5 3PT.

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1. Anne Collier, Album (The Amazing), 2015. Photo courtesy of Anne Collier and Zabludowicz Collection.