Who would have thought, that when Iwan Baan came into the Perry Rubenstein Gallery to give a presentation of his iconic work on the “Torre David”, a photographic journey through the abandoned famed skyscraper of Caracas that has become a micro city of squatters, that we would discover a great artist?
We might have had an inkling.
Iwan Baan did win the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale last year for his “Torre David” project, part of the Common Ground exhibition curated by David Chipperfield. Iwan Baan also won the inaugural Julius Schulman Photography Award in October of 2012, here in Los Angeles. But it was the artist beyond the photographic practice, the artist beyond the architectural representation, the artist Iwan Baan who so clearly stood before us that day. Art takes reality by surprise. But the reality of Iwan Baan’s distinctive artistic voice, and the magnitude of his artistic practice, took us by surprise that day, and we’ve never looked back.
Iwan Baan’s vision is truly unique. His art not only transcends, but transforms, our understanding of dwelling and human life. In every one of his images, there is a deeper exploration of what it means to be engaged in the practice of occupying space. In his artistic eye, dwelling is more than seeking shelter; it is a story unfolding, a story of human beings in interaction with one another, in opposition and union, and in mutual striving; the dance of creation and survival. And it is this very striving that becomes so moving in Baan’s images.
No matter how humble, Baan’s images capture the human reach for beauty and perfection. When shooting upward through a monumental cylindrical shaft of the Torre David, into the open night sky at dizzying heights, Baan still captures a single flowerpot sprouting its reaching leaves, reaching for the light, and two small figures visible far above, like the casual witnesses to a miracle. When shooting his iconic aerial images, such as that of the vast sprawl of Caracas, he still portrays the creeping expanse of the impoverished favelas, climbing the foothills the like creeping beggars reaching to touch the hems of the royal robes. A perfect, rigid grid of symmetrical balconies reverberates with tension from the imperfection of hanging laundry, cardboard partitions, and sheets for makeshift window coverings; order stained by the flawed human striving for its own kind of perfection. Even in Baan’s colorful night vision of Caracas, the obverse favelas sit like sentries before the fortress of the glowing thriving city beyond, like guardians of an abandoned conscience.
Rooted in the traditions of the architectural photography of Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Thomas Ruff, Iwan Baan nonetheless stands on his own. It is Iwan Baan’s humanity that can be seen in every one of his images and that sets him apart. In the very definition of art, Baan has a perception of humanity, as humanity itself hardly understands. His visions are organic in their naturalness. They are true to life. Unstaged. Messy. Human. Simply allowed to happen. As life sprouts and buds and replicates and perpetuates itself, Baan captures it in its transitional moments, and in its never-ending metamorphosis. Everywhere that humans congregate, life is untamed and unruly. Iwan Baan’s images capture this imperfect perfection, and the human binding need for survival; the innate desire for community in humanity’s battle against the essential and inexorable solitude that is the ultimate reality of existence.
Iwan Baan’s artistic practice is about to be introduced in his first gallery exhibition at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery. With this exhibition he will take his rightful place amongst the pantheon of artistic architectural photography, and such names as Catherine Opie, Struth, Stoller and Andreas Gursky. Museums, editors and curators have, already recognized his award winning work of the “Torre David” project. His emergence will now further demonstrate his unique contribution to the entire field of photography, in which he moves past representation to subject matter, in which his intervention and investigation leads to his own sense of humanity and all of ours. In the “Torre David”, as well as other works, Iwan Baan brings architecture to life. He humanizes and transforms it and we at Perry Rubenstein are excited to feature this groundbreaking exhibition.