The magical images of Adam Fuss

Original text by Lunettes Rouges, translation by Miss XS

There is a wrong way in which one can visit the Adam Fuss exhibition at the Fondation MAPFRE in Madrid (until 17th of April) : it would be an erroneous, harmful, sterile approach and yet so engaging, so seductive an approach. Such an approach would be to ask all the time : how the devil are these photographs made? Wanting to understand, daring to ask the question, succumbing, curious and ashamed to want to know the secrets of his recipe. Better off not knowing, not reading the technical descriptions, better off being swept away by the magical beauty of his images without being preoccupied whether the artwork is a daguerreotype, a photogram, a pinhole or a ‘normal’ photograph.

These incredibly beautiful photographs are the fruits of an experimental body of work, of which the driving force is more sensitive and mystical rather than technical. Certain of his photographs attract you like mirrors and perhaps these are the daguerreotypes; others, like inversed silhouettes a-la- Lavater arrest you from a distance; they are perhaps photograms. Four very black photographs oblige you to engage with them for a very long time, finding the proper distance, the correct angle, trying to adapt and accommodate in order to finally be capable, or even worthy, of distinguishing the faces or the busts emerging from the shadows like pure spirits with whom we can enter in communion. Perhaps these photographs were taken with a camera.

These photographs speak of absence, very much like the translucent baptism dress inhabited by emptiness, like a ghost or a spirit from across the Styx. Elsewhere, a first communion dress- or maybe a first ball dress  is covered with serpents: a dress for puberty, of first turmoil, first love, and snakes of temptation, of original sin. Vanity, all is vanity, says  repeatedly this exhibition, with its billows of smoke and its peacock feathers.

We marvel again at babies jiggling about in water and at swaying serpents creating waves, at this frozen movement captured by the photographer- who is more of a catcher than a hunter. In front of this incandescent white hole in the middle of red circles (a drop of water? a pendulum?), is there not an evocation of unrepresentable divinity, of the light of the Holy Spirit? I was reminded of Heaven in Jérôme Bosch’s quadriptych seen in Venice not so long ago at the Grimani palace. What’s missing here is a giant daguerreotype of very anatomically correct female genitals (image no.3), which, presented on the floor of his New York gallery, aroused some puritanical critics: it is though – amidst the skulls- a sign of life, of resurrection, like a portal towards the origin of life.

Indeed there are many questions about death and resurrection here: whether it is the reborn phoenix and its ashes, a pupa photographed like a jewel, or the magnificent pair of disembowelled rabbits facing one another (read Chris Bucklow’s narration of the evisceration in the beautiful catalogue), where blood, lymph, urine and viscera, reacting with the salts of the photographic paper, drew this coloured lace: the piece (above) is titled Love. Death and resurrection: on the floor above, some magnificent wooden crucified Roman Christs from Barcelona tell us a similar story.

The virtual visit on the Foundation’s website is remarkable.

The MAPFRE foundation will subsequently show a large exhibition on Atget (from the end of May until the end of August), which will later travel to the Carnavalet Museum in Paris in Spring 2012. This posting is the 10000th in the chronological register of postings on Le Monde’s blogs. The voyage was made possible through an invitation from the MAPFRE Foundation and the Tourist Office of Madrid.

En français

Photo n°2, courtesy of the Foundation. All photos ©Adam Fuss

  1. Amor, 1992. Fotograma. Cibachrome. Ejemplar único.Cortesía de Cheim & Read, Nueva York
  2. De la serie Mi Fantasma, 1999. Fotograma. Plata en gelatina. Ejemplar único. Colección John Cheim
  3. Medusa, de la serie Hogar y el Mundo, 2010. Fotograma. Plata en gelatine. Ejemplar único. Cortesía de Timothy Taylor Gallery, Londres
  4. Sin título, 1998. Fotograma. Cibachrome. Colección privada
  5. Sin título, 1992. Fotograma. Cibachrome. Ejemplar único. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
  6. Sin título, 2003. Impresión digital con pigmentos. Cortesía de Cheim & Read, Nueva York

3 responses to “The magical images of Adam Fuss

  1. These pictures look truly wonderful; thanks for sharing them with us in both French & English.

  2. Pingback: The Physical World (in the Suburbs) | Lunettes Rouges

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