30 OcTOBER 2016 - 29 JANUARY 2017

The Ludwig Museum is presenting the first solo museum exhibition of the New York artist Jeff Cowen, who is now based in Berlin.

Cowen uses only analogue photography. All the prints are made in his Berlin darkroom. His chief concern is not a return to the photographic past, but rather to plumb and expand the limits of the medium from a present-day perspective. The photographs themselves represent only the starting point and the basis of an artistic process. Using different chemicals and other additives, Cowen works freely on the photographic paper, in order thus to appropriate the material in a painterly fashion. Other works are created totally without a negative.

He is primarily concerned less with the photographic image, the individual motif – be it landscape, portrait, still life or sculpture – than with the material, chemical pre-conditions of the photographic process. He is interested in the question of how the sensory experience of three-dimensional plasticity can be reproduced in the two-dimensionality of the photographic print. The process is in part consciously controlled, but not comprehensively laid down in advance. Cowen is searching for something that he does not rationally understand, but which he feels and knows exists.

Jeff Cowen occupies a central position in contemporary art. The use of the medium of photography seems, against the background of digital picture production and manipulation, to be in crisis. His painterly approach is not a reaction to the development of the medium in recent years, and contemporary art production is hardly a reference point for him. But if we view his pictures as we would a painting or a drawing, we can recognize the mostly unexploited potential of photography.

The exhibition was conceived in close co-operation with the Museum Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, to where it will move in March 2017.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensively illustrated catalogue published by Walther K├Ânig, Cologne.

Image: Jeff Cowen, Untitled Ca l'Abat, 2014. © Jeff Cowen, Berlin.