Candida Höfer (b. 1944 in Eberswalde and living in Cologne) belongs, along with Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, to the most prominent artists to emerge from the photography class of the Bechers at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, and to have developed in preoccupation with the Bechers' rigid conceptuality a very own pictorial language. At Portikus Frankfurt, the artist presents a selection of ca. 40 mostly recent photographs supplemented by several photos from as far back the early eighties.

Rooms - the title of the exhibition - describes not only a certain subject, a selection of representational possibilities linked by a motif: it indicates, moreover, Candida Höfer's fundamental topic to which she has been intensively and solely dedicated for years.

Although the artist photographs, without exception, in public buildings: libraries, sanatoriums, museums, universities, conference halls, and waiting-rooms, the shots usually do convey an aspect marked by the absence of all life. This constitutes the peculiar distance and coolness in these pictures. Another characteristic is that the choice of the viewing perspective is not subject to any scheme, instead, it stems from a subjective state and estimation. The specific atmosphere and individuality of the respective places are thus revealed.

What plays a crucial role are the changes which have taken place in the history of the function of these rooms, in which the originally planned spatial organisation is eventually altered to accommodate different tastes as well as topographical needs. Two examples: The installation of beverage and coffee dispensers in the foyer of Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1988) follows a similar impetus as the installation of radiators and benches in the Musée Antoine Wiertz in Brussels (1985), namely to make accessible and suitable historically given spaces. The respective arrangements of these objects - e.g. the peculiar doubling of seats and radiators shown in the photo last mentioned - address a specific aesthetic which characterises the individuality of the rooms.

By refraining from depicting the presence of people in a situation that can only be encountered momentarily, Höfer's photographs indeed also deal indirectly with people and the way they furnish their world. One possible historical reference of such a perspective can be recognised in the photographs of Jean-Eugène Atget.

With the exhibition of works by Candida Höfer, Portikus continues its series of presenting outstanding contemporary photography - something which has been its concern from the very start. To name just a few artists whose works deal solely with photography: Bernhard and Anna Blume, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and Gerald Domenig.

Photos: Katrin Schilling