Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture exhibition at Frist Art Museum

Iwan Baan (Dutch, b. 1975). Torre David #2, 2011. Chromogenic print, 49 x 73 in. Courtesy the artist and Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles. © 2018 Iwan Baan

“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”
—Garry Winogrand

The Frist Art Museum is opening a new exhibition, Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture, that examines the complex and dynamic interactions among spectators, images, buildings, and time through the lens of architectural photography in America and Europe from the 1930s to the present. On view in the museum’s Upper-Level Galleries from Friday, July 20 through October 28, 2018, Image Building features 57 photographs that explore the social, psychological, and conceptual implications of architecture through the subjective interpretation of those who portrayed it in both film and digital media.

Organized by guest curator Therese Lichtenstein, PhD, Image Building brings together works by 21 artists and commercial photographers, ranging from classic modern masters such as Berenice Abbott, Samuel H. Gottscho, and Julius Shulman to a later generation known for its more vernacular images, with Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Luigi Ghirri, and Stephen Shore among its members. The exhibition also features contemporary works by Iwan Baan, Hélène Binet, James Casebere, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others.

Organized thematically into Cityscapes, Domestic Spaces, and Public Places, the exhibition examines the relationship between contemporary and historical approaches to photographing buildings in urban, suburban, and rural environments, looking at influences, similarities and differences. By juxtaposing these photographs, Image Building creates a dialogue between the past and present, revealing the ways photography shapes and frames the perception of architecture, and how that perception is transformed over time.

“Buildings and the way they are photographed are visible projections of a society’s self-image, conveying the social, economic, and aesthetic concerns of an era,” says Frist Art Museum Chief Curator Mark Scala. “Articulating meaning and function through the representation of an existing or possible structure is a vital part of architectural practice—a way to show both clients and the public how buildings fulfill their function and interact with their environments.”

Many architects hope that their conceptual intentions will last as long as the actual structures. Creating a perception—a mental or actual image of a structure—has become a vital element to architectural practice, shaping architects’ ideas about how buildings will look in addition to how they are experienced. But the messages contained in architecture are filtered and even altered by the lenses of a changing society.

Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture explores the changing relationship between viewer, photographer, and architect, from the 1930s to the present. Demonstrating how photographers connect a building’s identity with the people who reside in, work in, visit, or simply look at it, the exhibition also reveals how this understanding may be layered, reinforced, or in some instances radically reinterpreted.

This exhibition presents fascinating photographic conversations between architect and artist, past and present, and facts, dreams, and illusions. Photographers choose between black-and-white and color, sharp contrast and soft focus, and straightforward and dramatic framing to record their subjects. Contemporary photographers add the use of new digital technologies, allowing for an even greater manipulation of an image.

Ezra Stroller (American, 1915–2004). TWA Terminal at Idlewild, now JFK Airport, Eero Saarinen, New York, New York, 1962. Chromogenic print, 20 1/4 x 24 1/4 in. Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York. © 2018 Estate of Ezra Stoller/Esto

Whatever the medium, the intent is to involve the viewer in understanding the symbolism of architecture and public spaces. By combining different contexts and frames of meaning, Image Building invites viewers to actively experience structures and spaces in novel and expanded ways.

As with any exhibition that reflects changes wrought through time, Image Building has particular relevance to contemporary culture. Scala hopes that the exhibition will inspire visitors to the Frist to consider Nashville’s own evolving cityscape in terms of its symbolic resonance, for us and future generations.

Non-flash photography by the public for non-commercial, personal use is allowed in this exhibition.

Public programs you should consider attending during the exhibition

Architecture After Photography: A Conversation with Therese Lichtenstein and Susan H. Edwards on Friday, July 20, 2018 – 6:30 pm. Free; first come, first seated, in the Museum Auditorium. Join Image Building curator Therese Lichtenstein and Frist Art Museum executive director Susan H. Edwards for a conversation about how photography shapes and frames the perception of architecture and how that perception is altered over time. Dr. Lichtenstein was also the curator of Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris, which was presented at the Frist in 2009.

An Evening of Chaos and Awe on Friday, July 27, 6:00–9:00 p.m. in the Auditorium and Galleries. Beat the heat inside the air-conditioned auditorium and galleries for spellbinding live performances by singer-songwriter Adia Victoria, poet Ciona Rouse, composer Darius Jamal VanSluytman, and local musicians; artist-led programs with Afruz Amighi and James Perrin; and a tasting by chef Maneet Chauhan.

Art Deco Affair (Tickets Now On Sale) on Saturday, August 18, 7:00–10:00 p.m. Art Deco Affair is back! Dress up and come out for drinks, light bites, exclusive access to the galleries, and entertainment by Nashville’s own DJ AyDamn. This summer fundraiser pays homage to the Frist Art Museum’s 1930s art deco building, and all proceeds go toward the care and maintenance of this landmark. Now that Frist Fridays are quarterly throughout the year, rather than monthly through the summer, come out to the Art Deco Affair.

The Frist Art Museum is located in downtown Nashville at 919 Broadway.