'Fold Me’ is a showcase that serves as yet another steadfast instalment within the similarly underlying threads that have long permeated Wolfgang Tillmans’s various endeavours. Particularly his introductory Faltenwurf, Paper drop and Lighter projects, which were realised through a deep-held appreciation for Gilles Deleuze’s understanding of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s monad philosophy which depicted ‘folds’ and ‘foldings’ as “not something other than the outside, but precisely the inside of the outside.”
It’s through this perspective that wanderers of this space are persuaded to slow down and reflect on the intricate layers which contour our lifespans, with none displaying this more so than must-see projects including Provo, Utah and the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains (2023) and Lunar Landscape (2022) which have both turned to the undulating pleats of the Earth’s surface— from its tumultuous oceans to its precipitous mountain-ranges— for ingenuity. This juxtaposition between a citified expanse colliding with the rugged mountains, along with the beams of the moon rippling across the ocean’s surface, presents us with two contrasting perspectives, born from a broader desire to reveal, glimpses of a grander entirety that defies containment. Watering (2022) is also introspectively punctuated by a more profound message which dives far beyond its surface, particularly as it illustrates bottle caps that are made to appear as if they are suspended in mid-air, balancing on the top portion of translucent plastic bottles alongside a water sachet—the most conventional form of safe drinking water in West Africa. Whilst, in Power Station’(Low Clouds —2023), a body of water vapour ascends from a power source before silently, ominously, navigating a layer of low clouds and casting a shadow. Although the interweaving of vaporous layers exudes a certain delicacy, it only serves to disguise the untidy corporeality of our voracious appetite for energy to a narrow degree.
In tandem with this, feelings of intentionality and familiarity are unfolded by the still-lifes dotted throughout the gallery, from the overgrown flora and fauna in Inner City Poppy Pods (2022), consciously cultivated by the photographer from experiments with various bulbs, to Lagos still-life II (2022), a gargantuan representational of slightly imperfect mangos and plantains that rest on a bed close to plastic bags, herbs and an ornament. Simultaneously, Rain Splashed Painted Life (2022) greets observers with a close-up viewpoint of a mud-splattered, olive-green wall.
Serving as a juxtaposition to its predecessors is New York from New Jersey (2022), a must-see piece which speaks to Wolfgang’s continuing fascination with the “Concrete Jungle”, along with its enveloping milieu and the resolute infrastructure which serves as a metaphorical custodian to its inhabitants. Therefore, it is through this project that we are given the opportunity to perceive New York from an entirely contemporary perspective—one which emphasises its formidable architectural feats and continuously flashing lights.
Strikingly displayed as part of ‘Fold Me’s portfolio of works, is Seeing the Scintillation of Sirius Through a Defocused Telescope (2023), which culminates in a video depiction of the titular orb flickering in the atmosphere. Drawn to undertake the project after being intrigued by the question of whether it would be possible to record a star’s movements as they happen, Tillmans succeeded by vaguely defocusing his telescope to make the star appear as a minor, blurry disk on his camera’s sensor. The cold, white beam of light from Sirius is cambered and bounced around as it passes through the Earth’s ether before air currents and air cells of various weights instigate a continuously metamorphosing glint, blur and display of incorporeal hues and silhouettes, whilst the manoeuvre across the screen is credited to our planet’s rotation.
Ultimately, this focus is interrupted by the exhibition’s displaying of more contemporary portraiture-grounded works which include amongst them—an Iranian artist duo, a queer activist in Lagos, a New York-based film producer and a Crimean Tatar refugee working in Toronto. These serve as metaphorical timestamps which record Wolfgang’s exploration of the symbolism that comes from capturing the countenances of a person, whether they are encountered spontaneously or worked with by him over some time. Scattered throughout them, are also elements of his Lighter (2005) project, which is made up of photographic paper sculptures that have been folded in the darkroom before being exposed to sunlight or, occasionally, after processing. Their colours and shapes are born from Tillmans’s sketching with light sources on various folded, light-sensitive papers.
Wolfgang Tillmans: Fold Me is open at David Zwirner 525 & 533 West 19th Street, New York until the 14th of October 2023.