Renowned German artist, Axel Hütte, shows a series of photographs of American cityscapes in his first solo exhibition in the UK, at Waddington Galleries. After Midnight will include 21 large-scale photographs of American cities by night, such as New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Houston, taken over four years of extensive travel across the United States.
Captured by Hütte as a series of night-time horizons, the city skylines sometimes seem familiar but are more often intentionally anonymous (their locations revealed only by explanatory titles) or ambiguous; ‘New York, Las Vegas’, 2003, features Las Vegas’s replica of the famous Chrysler Building in New York. As Hütte comments, ‘In my photography it is perfectly obvious that I refer to an altogether concrete reality, that is to say, to a place which really exists. The place may of course seem absolutely strange or completely different to what the viewer has always imagined it to look like, but it really exists.’ The position of the viewer is frequently pushed into the far distance, giving the images a sense of cool observation of the homogeneous nature of these giant concentrations of American capitalism, whilst also allowing an appreciation of the mystery and calm beauty of the cities’ lights and buildings viewed from afar.
All the photographs in After Midnight are Duratrans, where large format colour transparencies are mounted onto a mirror-like surface. The resulting images have a reflective quality, as if there were an additional light source shining from underneath the image itself. Martin Filler, in his introduction to the accompanying catalogue, comments ‘It is not difficult to imagine that in ten or twenty years this series will be viewed as something of a commentary on the state of the United States at a dangerous – and perhaps irreversible – turning point in its history. Sheer size has tended to signify importance in American life – as well as American painting and sculpture – since the mid-nineteenth century. But the principle that bigger is better has become much more pronounced since World War II, from which America emerged as the mightiest world power. Hütte and his German contemporaries have seized upon the Abstract Expressionists’ colossal format with an effectiveness equal to the New York School, and, especially in the case of Hütte’s American city views, it puts across an impression of magnitude appropriate to subject and place.’