I’ll just get straight to the point and then let you stare at your computer screen for the next 20 minutes: Thomas Demand makes models out of paper, photographs them, and then destroys the model. You’re not looking at a fence or a bathroom; there is no metal, concrete, or glass: these are photographs of paper. That’s it.
The photographs are currently on view at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York and are well worth a visit in person, not just to inspect every detail on the larger originals, but to delight in the fact that you are looking at a photograph of paper… on paper.
Why not just show the model? My theory is that beyond demonstrating an INSANE skill of meticulous cutting, folding, and matching (I’m convinced he must have the largest and most varied paper collection in human history), these are as much about light as they are about paper. And not just shadows – notice the specific type of light in every photograph: The bathroom is convincing as much for the tiles as it is for that unique quality of light only FOUND in bathrooms.
But here’s where it gets really cool: Thomas Demand isn’t just impressing, he’s playing. In the bathroom image above, that’s not a mirror. Though translucent and reflective papers apparently pass his “paper only” rule, glass does not. Instead of using a mirror, Demand appears to have created a second room to act as the reflection. And reconsider the first image of the cup in the chain-link fence – not only has he “remade” the paper cup from paper, but the cup is actually FAR stronger than the paper fence and threatens to do real damage to it. For the hotel door below, the “do not disturb” sign is the only thing in the photograph that would be paper in real life, AND Demand has angled it nearly parallel to the surface of the paper on which it’s printed – meaning you could presumably cut it out and actually use it as what it represents.
If you can’t make it to New York and want a closer look at these images and more, the gallery has anticipated your wish and created a great “zoom” tool online. Follow the link here, select any individual image, and click on “zoom” (top right) to open a slider at the bottom.
All images © Thomas Demand / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery