From Walker Evans and August Sander to Andreas Gursky and Diane Arbus, many of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century have worked in the documentary manner. Cruel and Tender is the first major photography exhibition at Tate Modern and the first to explore this realist vein in depth. Many iconic images of the twentieth century come from this tradition and are included among the portraits, interiors, landscapes and cityscapes that comprise the exhibition.
Cruel and Tender includes the work of Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Paul Graham, Andreas Gursky, Boris Mikhailov, Nicholas Nixon, Martin Parr, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Michael Schmidt, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Thomas Struth, and Garry Winogrand.
Described by some as straight photography, this work is characterised by a sense of disengagement; it is analytical and descriptive in its approach to society and the landscape. At the same time, this kind of photography also demonstrates a concern for subject matter. Lincoln Kirstein identified this paradox of seeming opposites when he described Walker Evans’s work as ‘tender cruelty’. This oscillation between engagement and estrangement features in each work on display, from August Sander’s remarkable study of the German people in the early part of the century, to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s recent photographs of revealing city street scenes.
Cruel and Tender includes many familiar images which have shaped the way we look at the world. Walker Evans’s American Photographs launched a host of images which conflated the mythic and the mundane in American life: the automobile graveyard, the small town grocery store, torn movie posters and clapboard houses. Influenced by Evans, Stephen Shore gives us delicious candy-coloured depictions of quintessential American highways, cinemas and diners. These works are offset by William Eggleston’s angst-ridden and existential images of affluent suburbia and its inhabitants. These celebrated images will be displayed wherever possible within the context of their original bodies of work, enabling a greater understanding of the working practices of individual photographers.
The exhibition also highlights works which reveal the continuing relevance and fascination of portraiture within contemporary photographic practice. These range from Thomas Ruff’s photographs documenting his own personal surroundings in 1980s Düsseldorf, to Thomas Struth’s sensitive family portraits expressive of complex relationships and personalities, to Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs of people just after dramatic events: male bullfighters and recent mothers – both subjects bloodied by experience.
The exhibition will
be on view at Museum Ludwig from 29 November 2003 –
enquiries please contact Calum Sutton/Sioban Ketelaar