Institut de Carton is a discreet, artist-run project in Brussels that puts on twice-yearly exhibitions in a private home. On view for their first show this year is Jochen Lempert’s ‘Phasmes’. In a partly unrenovated domestic space, the German photographer’s show begins with a small series in the building’s stairwell, and continues on yellowing walls across the floors of a pre-war townhouse. In this extraordinary space, Lempert’s restrained, lush black and white photographs of natural situations are given a further degree of intimacy. Lempert, who lives in Hamburg, brings his biological sense of patient observation and a taxonomical precision to photographs and photograms that teem with emotiveness. Lempert’s views of nature, such as photographs on view showing water striders on the surface of water, and beneath it, are joined here with a photograph of details of a Botticelli painting. These are studies in resemblance and type: a detail from a 17th century painting by Melchior d’Hondecoeter is paired with a similar-looking photograph of (real) birds in a pond. Works such as Cygnus (Narcissus) (2017) and Untitled (Waterfowl) (2017) or Untitled (Chloropus/Duck) (2005) manage to construct a tension of drama and narration using simple means. On the surface, Lempert’s images seem simple: from images of leaves to hazy views of the Baltic sea. Yet the works do so much, asking: how did we get here and where are we headed?
- Pablo Larios