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REVIEW: Constructing Worlds @ Barbican Art Gallery - FAD Magazine

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REVIEW: Constructing Worlds @ Barbican Art Gallery

Constructing Worlds (installation image). Courtesy Barbican
Constructing Worlds (installation image). Courtesy Barbican

Photography and architecture are inextricably linked. Today you can’t sell a project without mock-ups of what the finished product will look like and once it’s completed, the photographs are used to sell the business and residential units within a new structure.

But the two art forms are more than just commercial bedfellows and this exhibition looks at art’s take on architecture from the 1930s onwards. Rather than trying to canter the whole history of architectural photography, 18 photographers have been picked to demonstrate a chronological evolution.

The exhibition starts off strongly with Berenice Abbott’s black and white cityscapes of an evolving New York City – low rise buildings are juxtaposed with the a skyscraper in the background and we see the Rockefeller centre under construction. This contrasts with the adjacent portfolio of Walker Evans and the seemingly unchanging rural America.

This is just the start of several impressive names and photographs. Ed Ruscha has photographed empty car parks from the air where the only sign of occupancy are the oil stains left behind. Dodger stadium on a non-game day looks like an alien mothership as the empty car park spaces circle outwards like a concrete crop circle.

Lauren Herve shows a stark interplay of light and shadow in black and white as a child runs across a  sunny courtyard while Bernd and Hilla Becher photograph water towers and gas holders from the standard design to the downright bizarre.

Constructing Worlds (installation image). Courtesy Barbican
Constructing Worlds (installation image). Courtesy Barbican

One of my favourites was the work of Bas Princen with his surreal images of bags of rubbish on Cairo rooftops, an Istanbul building where each floors seems to have been individually built on top of one another over time and a cooling plant in Dubai that seems to resemble the Ka’aba in Mecca.

The list of excellent artists goes with Nadav Kandar’s Yangtze river series and Simon Norfolk’s photographs from a re-developing Afghanistan.

The only down side is that the curators have picked some similar artists – both Stephen Shore and Thomas Struth find beauty in the mundane, while Luisa Lambri and Helene Binet are equally focussed on the slivers of light filtering through windows.

But this only a minor draw back as the quality of photography in this exhibition is outstanding  and it’s one of the best photography exhibitions I’ve seen this year.

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age is on at Barbican Art Gallery until 11 January. Tickets are £12 for adults.

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