Magazine article Artforum International

Walter Niedermayr

Magazine article Artforum International

Walter Niedermayr

Article excerpt

RHONA HOFFMAN GALLERY

Walter Niedermayr's wall assemblages of panoramic photographs record both the spectacular profile of his native region of the Italian Alps and the results of its relentless colonization by late-twentieth-century tourism. As did painters like Turner and Friedrich, Niedermayr exults in the sheer drama of the place, where nature takes on a frosty and inhospitable grandeur. Always from a distance, his camera records much of the standard repertoire of chilly Romanticism--the juxtapositions of ice and stone, the deep fissures, the rocky crags scurried over by infinitesimal human figures inevitably dwarfed by their encounter with nature. But while the grand tradition of Romantic artists showed nature relatively untouched, perpetually abiding, and impassively impervious to its occasional contact with humankind, Niedermayr offers the residue of a curious domestication: the Alps as just another day trip for the expenditure of late-capitalist leisure time.

Almost lost amid the rocky and snowy vastness of Felskinn 1, 1997, a few bulldozers crawl about, their splash of yellow color making them seem like tiny daffodils clinging to life in an otherwise inhospitable clime. But live they do. Like the ubiquitous spidery cable lines, ski lifts, and people-movers that appear in almost all Niedermayr's work, the machinery is a reminder of a scarring, inescapable human presence. While skiers themselves almost never appear in his photographs (many of which are taken during the off-season), skiing's encumbering infrastructure is everywhere. …

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