Florian Maier-Aichen’s Photographs Go on Display at Blum & Poe
By: Michael Slenske
Florian Maier-Aichen’s Hypnotic Photographs Go on Display at Blum & Poe
Florian Maier-Aichen first moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago, using the Golden State’s epic sprawl—from the Malibu coastline to the Port of Long Beach—as a platform for his large-format aerial landscapes, often shot with infrared film to hypnotic effect. For his latest show at Blum & Poe, which opened last weekend, the German-born photographer is revisiting many of his old locales as a way to intensify their resonance.
“I don’t like trophy hunting in terms of photography like my colleagues who visited Asia and Africa. I always wanted to act locally,” says Maier-Aichen, who splits his time between Cologne and L.A. “Photography only works for me when I find good clear historical references or locations used by important photographers or by just ripping off myself.”
Maier-Aichen rephotographed the Port of Long Beach, which he’d shot a decade earlier, for a collage-based work that uses a blurred image of puffy clouds (cardboard cutouts of a scenic drawing he did when he was seven) crudely pasted and rephotographed over a negative above San Pedro. Hanging opposite this work in the front gallery is an equally haunting shot of the Salton Sea (Halbes Bild) with a chemigram painting of a dripping moon displayed in the distance. Heightening the otherworldly experience are two large abstract works (one positive, one negative) that employ human-size cardboard cutouts shot against layers of densely saturated Photoshop drawings, receding and humming into a distorted, vibrating void of color.
Meanwhile, in the adjoining galleries Maier-Aichen is debuting two new long-exposure landscapes depicting a summer river festival in Cologne and printed on silver gelatin—his only unadulterated works in the show. The dominant theme in this space, however, is the “studio-based work”—made by painting splashes, scribbles, unskilled swirls, and graffiti marks on animation cels, then rephotographing those against gradient backgrounds rendered digitally and in crayon—which playfully and poignantly blurs the line between various mediums and manipulations.
“All the works in this show are slightly off because I’m trying to enhance photography to make something that’s more to my liking, rather than ending up with a finished product,” Maier-Aichen says. “One of the big problems I have with contemporary photography is that it’s too polished, too clean. What I like about film is the potential for mistakes. If you screw it up or make it complicated or add a lot of steps, eventually it shows in the work.”