Water Towers (Cylindrical)

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Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, established 1959 (partnership); 1931–2007 (Bernd); 1934–2015 (Hilla))
Water Towers (Cylindrical), 1978
Nine gelatin silver prints
56 × 40 in. (142.24 × 101.6 cm)
Gift of Herbert H. Kohl Charities, Inc. M1984.117
Photo credit: Larry Sanders
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery
Not Currently on View

In the late 1950s, Bernd and Hilla Becher began collaboratively photographing industrial architecture around Düsseldorf, where they went to art school, choosing categories of objects for which the phrase, "form follows function," seems the principal organizing motif: water towers, mine shafts, gas tanks, grain silos, etc. Although their images appear as transparent representations of "anonymous sculptures"—the artists' term for their subject matter—the Bechers' photographs are carefully constructed to create this impression. The homogeneity of point of view, depth of field, crispness of detail, and even distribution of light allow subtle variations among the structures to emerge, especially when the artists group the works into grids for exhibition. These "typologies," deadpan collective portraits of the modern landscape, resonated with the Conceptual art and Minimalism of the 1960s and 1970s, while expanding the German documentary tradition of August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Werner Mantz. They have also had a watershed effect on the development of contemporary art.

Publication History
Kitchel, Karen. A Relative Condition: The Landscape Paintings of Karen Kitchel : a Retrospective Exhibition. Casper, Wyo: Nicolaysen Art Museum & Discovery Center, 2010, p. 29, b/w illus.

Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 59, 73, cat. 99, color illus. p. 59.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Building a Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hill Press, 2001, p. 214, color illus.

Goldstein, Rosalie, ed. Guide to the Permanent Collection. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986, p. 157, b/w illus. p. 157.
Exhibition History

From Talbot to Mapplethorpe: A Decade of Photography Acquisitions, Milwaukee Art Museum, September 27, 1990-January 6, 1991.

Art Since 1970 from the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Art Center, May 29-August 21, 1988.


This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.