The SFMOMA recently unveiled an exhibition of contemporary photographer Wolfgang Tillmans’ work. Wolfgang Tillmans: To look without fear is the most comprehensive exhibition of his work–spanning several decades of his career.
In an interview with curator and Head of Photography Erin O’Toole at SFMOMA, Tillmans noted the title “ …doesn’t explain the exhibition, but gives a certain spin or a taste — a point of entry. I felt that for this show, my first full survey retrospective, it needed to be something that fit the whole practice. I’ve said many times in interviews that I want to use my eyes to look without fear — to not be afraid of what information they deliver and to be open about what I see.”
The exhibition is unique in its execution. Sprawling photographs cover walls, while small frameless images are scattered on the walls. You’ll also spot some magazine pages taped to walls, while video work is on display and large table installations fill open spaces. Viewers may be struck by the massive photo of a small plant towering over the exhibition, juxtaposed with small scenes of nightlife and portraits just around the corner.
It’s the kind of exhibition you can spend hours in. It’s easy to notice more details in the large prints and discover more clippings and photographs scattered throughout. Tillmans is deeply involved in the installation process, stating, “This installation type I created is always perceived as great freedom, but it has rigor underneath that supports it.” in his interview with SFMOMA curator Erin O’Toole.
If you aren’t familiar with Tillmans’ career, you probably still recognize some of his work. One of his photos, The Cock (kiss) from 2002, became a symbol of queer resilience online, and he photographed Frank Ocean’s iconic Blonde album cover. You can see the famed album cover in a large print at the SFMOMA, along with many of his other well-known pieces.
Wolfgang Tillmans: Too look without Fear is currently on display at the SFMOMA. The exhibition closes on March 3, 2024.