MAX REGENBERG Billboards
Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by the German artist Max Regenberg from his series Billboards. Some of his most recent works will be on view for the first time in the show.
Max Regenberg, born in Bremerhaven in 1951, lives and works in Cologne. After completing his training as an advertising photographer, he moved to Ottawa, Canada, in 1977, where he was confronted with a media landscape far ahead of the developments in Europe. Oversized billboards already lined the streets there, private television channels broadcast incessant commercials. The experience of this veritable flood of images fundamentally changed Regenberg’s view of the medium of photography. Inspired by Robert Venturi’s book Learning from Las Vegas, which presents a series of photographs by the American artist Ed Ruscha, Regenberg began to explore billboards as a subject in his photography immediately after his return to Germany in 1979 and from then on made it the focus of his work. He has hence created a unique long-term photographic study on billboards in public space, which he continues until today. He investigates this subject not only through the viewfinder of his camera, but also with the help of an archive of several thousand advertising posters. Taking his well-known photographic series on the Marlboro cowboy as a point of departure, the artist again addresses the subject of landscape in the advertising context in his series Billboards. The exhibition exclusively presents works from Billboards and gives an overview of his oeuvre of color photographs from 1982 to 2014.
The two systems of art and advertising, which Regenberg examines, have essentially different intentions, but they both operate with the medium of the image eliciting a desire in the viewer. Particularly often and effectively, landscape images are employed as stimuli. Landscapes channel emotions and make the genre especially attractive to advertising, which recognizes its seductive qualities and uses them for its own purposes. And while—at least since the New Topographics movement of the 1970s—a contemplation of landscape has little to do with ideas of an animated and sublime nature anymore, which used to be a common trope in the 19th century, the subject is still very emotionally charged. As the ostensible center of advertisements and works of art, landscape currently becomes a mere backdrop to evoke emotion and atmosphere. In Regenberg’s series the American advertising myth meets the urban landscape, which creates a unique and peculiar tension between two visual systems. The photographed images enter into a new context and thus draw attention to the fact that public space and everyday life are continually aestheticized and economized. At the same time, the artist encourages the viewer to question the possibilities, limits, and the use of landscape within these two systems.
Oscillating between fascination and criticism, Regenberg’s works reflect on posters on advertisement columns, advertising panels, and billboards, which we are constantly surrounded with in public space. Max Regenberg is working in a tradition of artists such as Richard Prince, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, who have each explored distinct strategies of considering billboards in the context of art.
The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Max Regenberg: Billboards, published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2014.