Flowers gallery will be holding an exhibition of iconic works from acclaimed photographer Michael Wolf’s series: Architecture of Density from 17 January - 22 February, 2014. The photographs depict the vibrant city of Hong Kong from an inimitable perspective and have never been presented at this scale before in London. The large scale works examine the architecture of the city by leaving convention to one side. Wolf focuses on repetition of pattern and form to cause a visual reaction. The result is a sense of rediscovery, as Wolf frees you of the constraints of a typical photograph.
Densely populated and restricted by land mass, the city of Hong Kong has propelled itself upwards to contend with the lack of lateral space. Home to more sky scrapers over 150m than any other city in the world, the air is populated with a forest of high rises. Michael Wolf has been consumed by the social and architectural fabric of Hong Kong since he moved there in 1994 and witnessed its rapid expansion, sustaining an interest in the visual elements of the city and using his photographs to explore its socio-cultural phenomena.
This exhibition brings together large scale photographs in which the vision of Hong Kong is airless and groundless, inhabiting the abstract mid-ground perspective where endless architectural forms appear as patterns, sequences of shape and colour disconnected from realistic perspective. Colour and form seem to extend indefinitely, mirroring the disorientating spatial experience of the city itself.
The formalism and deadpan approach of these photographs echoes the work that emerged from the Dusseldorf school of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Like the work of Andreas Gursky or Thomas Struth, Wolf’s work reveals a desire to document and connect with the world around him through a contemporary visual approach. Contrary to the lyrical drama of ‘classic’ documentary photography, these images are coolly detached from their subject and the photographer’s presence behind the camera is barely perceptible.
On close inspection we see architecture as a framework upon which its inhabitants hang their personalities; clothes lines, bird feeders, mops and air conditioning units appear to give the feeling of peering into a human petri-dish. Wolf’s compositions are laced with evidence of people’s ability and need to express their individuality within these formal structures. This human element is further explored in a set of tiny photographs in which Wolf carves out fragments from the city streets: from workers’ gloves drying on a spiral of barbed wire to the chaotic labyrinths formed by plumbing and ventilation pipes. By focusing on these seemingly insignificant details, Wolf captures the beauty of the vernacular by shedding light on the seams of the city; the zones where the lack of private space forces the city’s inhabitants to reclaim public space to fit their basic needs.
The exhibition will be accompanied by the release of the new Monograph Michael Wolf, Hong Kong Trilogy, published by Peperoni Books, Berlin.
Michael Wolf was born in Munich, Germany and lives between Hong Kong and Paris. The focus of his work is life in mega cities. Many of his projects document the architecture and the vernacular culture of metropolises. Wolf grew up in Canada, Europe and the United States, studying at UC Berkeley and at the Folkwang school with Otto Steinert in Essen, Germany. He moved to Hong Kong in 1994, where he worked for eight years as the contract photographer for Stern magazine. Since 2001, Wolf has been focusing on his own projects, many of which have been published as books.
Wolf’s work has been exhibited in numerous locations, including the Venice Bienniale for Architecture, Aperture gallery, New York; Museum Centre Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland, museum for work in Hamburg, Germany, Hong Kong Dhenzhen Biennial, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. His work is held in many permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Brooklyn Museum, The San Jose Museum of Art, California; The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum Folkwang, Essen and the German Museum for Architecture, Frankfurt.
He has won first prize in the World Press Photo Award competition on two occasions (2005 & 2010) and an honourable mention (2011.) In 2010, Wolf was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet photography prize. He has published more than 13 photo books including Bottrop Ebel 1976 (Peperoni Press 2012) Tokyo Compression Three (Peperoni Press/Asia one 2012,) Architecture of Density (Peperoni Press/Asia one 2012,) Hong Kong Corner Houses (Hong Kong university press, 2011) Portraits (Superlabo, Japan, 2011) Tokyo Compression Revisited (Peperoni Press/Asia one 2011,) Real Fake Art (Peperoni Press/Asia one 2011,) FY (Peperoni Press, 2010,) A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Peperoni Press, 2010,) Tokyo Compression (Peperoni Press/Asia one 2010,) Hong Kong Inside Outside (Asia one/Peperoni Press 2009,) The Transparent City (Aperture 2008) and Sitting in China (Steidl 2002).
All images Architecture of Density #39, © Michael Wolf, courtesy Flowers Gallery