Heaven Knows

Tillmans is often compared to Goldin, but their concurrent shows suggest they are going in opposite directions. He's moving deeper into visual and narrative ensemble. She's a romantic who's struggling to retrieve her great subject—the thread of suffering and beauty that gave her work weight and continuity. What was unconventional about Goldin was her life. Her latest images are autonomous, all the works are hung in a row, and nearly all are the same size. The mood of each work feels predictable and mannered. She's best when she speaks in the first person, when everyone is in her private movie.

Tillmans's is a world of we. His people are more public and artificial; he worships at the altar of the lightness-of-being. If Goldin's model is Warhol as the center of a scene, then Tillmans is like one of the Factory hangers-on who musters enough will to make art. Goldin's retrospective was titled "I'll Be Your Mirror." Tillmans's most recent book is titled Burg. This is a telling difference. Mirrors are about the loop of narcissism. Burgs are open, alive, ever-changing, and public. They go beyond tribes and expand the self; they are the stage and the backdrop of our lives. We are all people of the Burg.


Wolfgang Tillmans
Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 West 24th Street
Through November 28

It's always good to bear in mind that while Baudelaire's essay is well-known, Constantin Guys—the artist about whom it was written—is all but forgotten. Tillmans hopes to be remembered, and this show suggests he has a good shot at it.

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