Peter Piller - Richard Prince

19.06.2021 - 31.10.2021
Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy), 1984, © Richard Prince, Courtesy Sammlung Goetz, München, Foto: Raimund Koch
Peter Piller, Von Erde schöner, 2002–2004, Sammlung Fotomuseum Winterthur, Ankauf mit Mitteln von Odinga Picenoni Hagen AG © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

With Richard Prince (*1949) and Peter Piller (*1968), two artists focusing respectively on American myths and the realities of life in Germany — different generations, diverse worlds —, there is an encounter at the Weserburg Museum for Modern Art between two extremely original artistic oeuvres offering exemplary presentations of life and thought in and through pictures.

Cowboys, rockers and their girlfriends, pictures full of macho eroticism, chauvinistic cartoons and stereotypical cars on the one hand. Plots of land for future development, unpleasant neighbors, fleeing birds and office drawings on the other. Significant visual values are juxtaposed with absurd images of everyday life. In terms of both form and contents, the pictorial worlds of Prince and Piller could scarcely be more different.

Yet alongside these obvious, radical differences, it is the surprising similarities and comparable artistic strategies that make an encounter between Prince and Piller so fascinating. Both artists use images they find in the media — such as press- or advertisement-photos — that they appropriate and transform into art. Prince ever since the 1970s, Piller starting some twenty years later. Questions regarding authenticity and originality are addressed along with the influence of pictures on our imagination of reality. Desires, fantasies and the superficialities of everyday life are brought to light — with both merciless harshness and analytical subtlety.

Peter Piller values the “advantages of a lack of intention.” In his archives, he accordingly collects amateurish press photos of unspectacular situations with regional significance. He shows aerial views of German residential areas or redesigns the cover of the military magazine Armeerundschau from the days of the German Democratic Republic. These are documents of a petty-bourgeois society which, seen with Piller’s eyes, turns out to have grotesque characteristics. Recently he has turned his attention to black-and-white pictorial documentation of cave drawings, the oldest traces of human civilization.

In contrast, Richard Prince creates seductive symbols of America. He as well prefers to work serially. His Marlboro cowboys, Playmates or cars catch our eye as auratic individual images with strong visual impact. Here the “American dream” of individual freedom is still alive; there is a collision between images of women and male fantasies. Many of his works seem disturbing at a first glance. They are eye-catching, direct and, in a certain sense, immediately comprehensible. At the same time, however, they are characterized by an intellectual precision and ambiguous complexity that only gradually becomes apparent.

The exhibition at the Weserburg is extended in a separate room with Peter Piller’s first sound installation. It can be interpreted as a both pensive and humorous reference to our overly stimulated and breathless media world. What is to be heard is a compilation of excerpts from the cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach in which the word Geduld (“patience”) is sung from time to time and echoes long afterwards.

Curated by Ingo Clauß


Exhibition on Level 3

With generous support
Media Partner

Participating collections

Deichtorhallen Hamburg / Sammlung Falckenberg, Sammlung Fotomuseum Winterthur, Sammlung Goetz, Sammlung Haubrok, Sammlung Hegewisch-Becker, Sammlung Wolfgang Schoppmann, Sammlung Gaby und Wilhelm Schürmann, Sammlung Christian Kaspar Schwarm and other private collections.

Exhibition in the Centre for Artists‘ publications

Archiv der Bücher – Peter Piller

23. Juli bis 14. November 2021

The artistic work of Peter Piller is characterized in particular by his photo archive, whose images – newspaper photos and aerial photographs – he compiles in series according to design elements and content correspondences and also publishes as artist books. The work of archiving and compiling photographs by Peter Piller is transferred in the exhibition to the archiving and compiling of Peter Piller’s artist publications in the sense of a meta-archive.

Curated by Anne Thurmann-Jajes

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