Wolfgang Tillmans

Freischwimmer 155 (2010)

Inkjet print
101.57 inches by 181.89 inches

Located on Hall of Fame Level, Southeast Elevator Lobby

Wolfgang Tillmans’ Freischwimmer 155 (2010) is a super-realistic depiction of a small volume of printer’s ink dissolving in a bath of deep green liquid. As an image, it takes viewers back to a time before the world went digital, when photographers printed pictures the old-fashioned way—with light-sensitive film, paper, and specially mixed chemicals. That’s how Tillmans made this camera-less photograph. Going straight to the darkroom, he submerged a page-size sheet of paper in a carefully mixed solution, dripped in a modest amount of ink, and then, very gently, stirred the mixture. In a sense, he was drawing with liquid. The photographic paper recorded those fleeting, impossible-to-repeat moments.

Then Tillmans digitally scanned his handmade photograph and used an industrial-strength inkjet printer to transform it into a wall-size work. Measuring more than 8-by-15 feet, his beautifully composed print is an immersive environment that is easy to get lost in. Freischwimmer 155 (in English, Free Float) is also a super-saturated abstraction that takes us back to the glory days of abstract painting, when bold gestures and improvised brush-strokes conveyed a sense of infinite possibility. The romance of painting lives on in Tillmans’ high-res image, which brings the past into the present by making room for ambiguity and, even better, real mystery.

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