Michael Wolf: Metropolis
February 3 - April 30, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - Robert Koch Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by renowned
photographer Michael Wolf. Two new series, Paris Street Views and Tokyo Compression, expand
upon the dominant themes of Wolf’s previous work: the layers of city life and the juxtaposition of private
and public spaces. Wolf continues his examination of the urban landscape, eliminating the camera in
favor of manipulating Google street views of Paris, and returning to the camera to capture the crush of
the Tokyo subway. In addition to these series, the gallery will exhibit new images from the acclaimed
Architecture of Density series. Wolf assumes a range of viewpoints in his new work, both intimate and
removed, and the exhibition will chart a progression from an expansive view of city life to a microscopic
view, illustrating both the architectural density and human density of our layered urban landscapes.
Paris Street Views addresses voyeurism and the privacy afforded in public spaces. Wolf uses Google’s
online database of street views as the raw material from which to ‘shoot’ his own photographs. He refers
to the process of making these images as ‘shooting;’ wandering the online database, Wolf crops and
blows up isolated moments, the crop and choice of angle taking the place of the camera. Some of the
images evoke classic Parisian photographs of the past: Wolf’s image of a couple kissing is reminiscent
of Robert Doisneau’s famous photograph of the same subject. Other decidedly contemporary images
address the notion of a universal abstract city by capturing the grittiness of urban life, the mood of which
is intensified by Wolf’s enlargement of the street views so that the final image is extremely pixelated. All
of the images question the idea of privacy in the modern city, as well as the changing role and definition
of ‘street’ photographer.
In Tokyo Compression, Wolf goes underground and close-up, capturing riders at one Tokyo subway
station. Privacy has almost ceased to exist, and Wolf magnifies the situation by photographing his
subjects from mere inches away. While the subjects in Paris Street Views are, of for most part, unaware
that they have been captured by Google, the subjects here close their eyes or attempt to turn away,
trying to retain some privacy in this crowded space. The portraits together form a psychological typology
and are evocative of the stifling environment experienced on a daily basis by the underground riders.
The images in Tokyo Kompression, while different from the detached architectural portraits explored in
Architecture of Density, continue to illustrate Wolf’s fascination with contemporary cities, and the many
components and layers that comprise a city.
Born in Munich in 1954, Michael Wolf was raised in the United States and Germany. He studied at UC
Berkeley before earning a degree from the University of Essen in Germany as a student of Otto Steinert.
Wolf is recipient of a 2005 and 2010 World Press Photo Award, and his work will be included in the
Hong Kong Pavilion at the 2010 Venice Biennale for Architecture. Wolf’s work has been exhibited at the
Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Deutsches Architektur Museum in Frankfurt, the
Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg, and the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau. His photographs are included in
prestigious collections both domestically and abroad at The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the Brooklyn
Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the
Deutsches Architektur Museum, and the Museum Folkwang, Essen.