Juergen Teller, who opens a show in April at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, was born in Erlangen where he has an exhibition at Kunstpalais Erlangen which is still on display there.
It’s an intimate show dedicated to his mother Irene, his family and friends and the area he comes from: Franconia. The exhibition is defined by a simple set-up which underlines the private and easy-going approach of both the artworks and the show. It touches on all the different fields Juergen Teller works in: Fashion photography, personal portraits, conceptual works and the mise-en-scène of stars.
The photo with the «Frogs on plates» – Teller means plates in English – is part of a series which fills one complete room and is inspired by a photograph by Robert Marplethorpe. From the archive of Marplethorpe Juergen Teller curated an exhibition in 2016 at Alison Jacques Gallery in London to coincide with what would have been the 70th birthday of the iconic American photographer. Teller was chosen because «he is one of a few artists who, since Mapplethorpe, has been able to operate successfully both in the art world and the world of commercial fashion photography» as the website of the gallery puts it. ⠀
Both of them also have their family and friends appear in their photographs which allow them to be an intimate diary and document as well – not only of their private life, but also for their generation and its zeitgeist. ⠀
Maybe the frogs got a space that prominently in the exhibition of Juergen Teller because the frog is not only an outsider in the context of beauty, but also a symbol of catharsis, purification and generally all processes of transformation and the different modes of becoming and passing away. ⠀
Or if this question is turned around and put in a different way: What’s the essence that stays besides the turning of trends and the changes of time? The exhibition of Juergen Teller at Kunstpalais Erlangen is dedicated to his mother who is also shown on the main poster of the exhibition. It starts with an extensive interview by actor Lars Eidinger with Juergen Teller and his mother Irene in which they touch the decision to go into photography, the beginning of his career and what Irene Teller likes and dislikes about her son’s works. They also discuss how difficult the communication was between her in the Franconian village and her son after he moved to London at the age of 22 and how she visited him back then in London in his shoebox flat. ⠀⠀
Irene Teller stars in a lot of his photos, but likes herself only in a very few of them. Here we see one of three series of pictures shown in the exhibition under the title «Irene im Wald» from 2012 which shows her and other members of the family in the Franconian woods near Bubenreuth. The chosen place is especially interesting under a psychological perspective: Teller is allergic to wood which prevented that he took up an apprenticeship in the domestic factory which produced bows for musical instruments. ⠀⠀
These series are accompanied by intimate stories in the subtitles about Juergen Teller’s family and his development and underline the strong connection of Juergen Teller with his past, but also with the Franconian way of life and landscape. In Franconia he did also fashion shots for international clients – for example he positioned Raquel Zimmermann on the couch-table of his mother. ⠀⠀
Also the death of his father and the difficult relationship between them is a topic of the interview and some of his works. Some of those works but also others got his mother into trouble in the village where she still lives, but Irene Teller’s always bravely defending her son and his works against the attacks of the narrow-minded villagers. Juergen Teller is known for is his special way of fashion photography in which he is in the very first place directing the motif and doesn’t care a lot about the concept of others. Therefore he chooses the way of staging by himself and thus creates a way of photography with highly personal influences for which he is famous for. ⠀
Normally fashion photos get corrections for retouching by the clients through way of writing comments directly on the draft prints. He plays with this part of his job in this picture from 2015 in the exhibition at Kunstpalais Erlangen for which he chose a self portrait to which the most average comments coined in the common fashion world are added. ⠀
With works like this he proves that he can present himself as easy going and self-ironic and to show off his qualities as a witty entertainer. ⠀
There is also a film in the exhibition at Kunstpalais Erlangen which shows him dressed as a very critical local visitor in the exhibition who rages about the pictures like «That’s not art. That’s total crap.» in a heavy Franconian accent. While it might be a bit odd and reproducing one-dimensional stereotypes the film is funny and touches on the very typical critical approach of a certain type of Franconians to things that are unfamiliar, yet unknown and sometimes challenging. ⠀
And I must know this character trait, because I’m lucky to be Franconian as well – and critical. ⠀
What I don’t know yet is if and how Juergen Teller will translate this particular form of humor shown in this work especially produced for this show into the slightly rougher rudeness of the «Berliner Schnauze» for his exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, which opens in April 2017.
Preview Image: Life in Franconia as seen through a window of Kunstpalais Erlangen which shows an exhibition by Juergen Teller | Photo: Norbert Bayer