Matthew Drutt on Luisa Lambri. (First Take)

Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Matthew Drutt on Luisa Lambri. (First Take)


AT A GLANCE, LUISA LAMBRI'S PHOTOGRAPHS OF architectural interiors might appear to be yet another example of the austere, depopulated spaces found in so much of today's photo-based work. They are, however, eminently different in both conception and execution, at once deeply personal and ethereal rather than wholly impartial and concrete, suffused with a delicacy and intimacy that is diametrically opposed to the stark realism found in the works of, say, Thomas Ruff or Candida Hofer. Since Lambri initiated what has become a sustained engagement with architecture and photography in 1997, she has endeavored to strike a subtle balance between objectivity and subjectivity, creating interpretations of spaces rather than documents of them, eliciting something minimal, abstract, and nonspecific that is imprinted by memory and desire in the process.

Born in Como, Italy, in 1969, Lambri never attended art school and instead studied languages and literature at universities in Milan and Bologna. Officially she resides in Berlin and Milan, but in fact she lives wherever a project takes her, spending anywhere from several weeks to several months at a given location. She began taking pictures while traveling, first as a means to "escape" from Italy, but soon discovered an affinity for the geometrically simple voids of modernist architecture. In these spare interiors, Lambri developed an infatuation with her own relationship to architecture, memory, and perception, exploring through photographs how these celebrated spaces provoke a broad range of emotional, visceral, and intellectual responses that are often detached from the buildings' august historical position. Since then, her inventory of projects has grown to include Le Corbusier's apartment blocks in Chandigarh (1997), Alvar Aalto's Finlandia Hall in Helsinki (1998), Wittgenstein House in Vienna (1999) Mi es van der Rohe's Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic (1999), his Barcelona Pavilion (2001), and two Richard Neutra houses in Palm Springs, California (2002). But this is only a partial list, and among her current projects she is exploring the work of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil.

In 2000 Lambri deviated from her almost exclusive concern with buildings of the past when she embarked on a broad investigation of the contemporary works of Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. …

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