Trained as an urban planner, Wüst came to photography in the 1970s as a rhetorical tool for studying the development of cities. This work quickly developed into a critique of the East German approach to city building and led ultimately to a conceptual approach to portraiture of the Socialist state. In the Stadtbilder series, Wüst photographed East German cities that were slow to recover from wartime destruction, bringing emphasis to the massive, soulless housing structures that emerged in the rise of the Socialist regime and that failed to address the rehabilitation of the cities’ historic city centers. As Wüst recalls: “I wanted to create a landscape of the soul, drawing attention to what we had done to ourselves with our city planning.” Concurrent with the exhibition, the Stadtbilder series will be featured in documenta 14.
Wüst remained in East Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall, where he began photographing left behind objects from the homes of those who abruptly fled the city. In these photographs from the Nachlass series Wüst captured the intimate architecture of everyday life, creating the objects’ historical portraits, and ultimately a portrait of their former owner, before they were disposed of and forgotten.
Ulrich Wüst has lived and worked in Berlin since 1972, where he continues to photograph the evolution of German cities and their historic memory. Wüst’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., Public and Private: East Germany in Photographs by Ulrich Wüst, debuted at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA in 2015 and travelled to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA in 2016. Wüst’s work has been collected by the Berlinische Galerie, the Deutsche Genossenschaftsbank, the Art Collection of the German Bundestag, the Berlin State Museums, and the Museum of Prints and Drawings Berlin, and has been featured in solo exhibitions throughout Europe.
Stadtbilder | Nachlass
May 6 – June 17, 2017