With intense visual clarity, she portrays objects dislocated from their usual context. Contrary to their apparent simplicity and reduced aesthetic, Kelm’s images contain a wealth of references, from interior design and architecture, to Hollywood films or current day concerns with exoticism and global trade.

Among the works shown at Witte de With are a selection from Kelm’s Big Prints series of 2007, photographs of printed fabrics designed by Dorothy Draper, an American decorator for the rich and famous in the 1940s. Draper’s designs borrowed heavily from Hawaiian and African fabrics, transforming tribal patterns into chic wallpapers and fabrics. Here the fabrics are photographed flat and at close range, highlighting the beauty of the patterns’ compositions, as well as the disjunction between the fabric’s woven texture and the glossy paper of the photographic print.

Also presented at Witte de With is Caps (2008), a series of 20 images of almost identical caps, edged in different colors and taken from various angles. Kelm found these hats in New York’s Chinatown and was attracted by their marriage of the traditional Chinese straw hat with the shape of the classic all-American baseball cap.

For this exhibition, Kelm has produced a new body of work exploring the pre-fabricated houses that emerged in Germany in the post-war years. Intrigued by the high level of ornamentation they display – quite at odds with usual notions of pre-fab architecture – Kelm photographed these houses using a 4×5 large format plate camera, a slow process with only one shot per plate. The resulting images treat each house as an object, but avoid a Becher-like categorization, capturing instead the poetic quality of these “Swiss” chalets and “Swedish” villas.

Revealing her own research-based practice, Kelm’s works spark off a chain reaction of associations and draw upon the rich vocabulary of the history of painting, sculpture and – particularly – photography. Despite the seemingly deadpan presentation of her subject matter, Kelm’s photographs contain a certain natural beauty and reveal a subtle sense of humor. This lyrical quality sets her apart from earlier conceptual photographers (eg. Dan Graham, Christopher Williams), demonstrating her reassessment of contemporary photography and the freshness of her approach.

At Witte de With, Kelm’s photographs are presented within the remains of Liam Gillick’s solo exhibition, which imposed an architectural meta-structure onto the gallery spaces. This framework designated which rooms were to be used for the presentation of Gillick’s work and which were to be seen as “institutional zones”, for which he gave back the responsibility to the curatorial team. Witte de With chose to use these spaces to present the work of other artists, first with Manon de Boer, then Keren Cytter, Gareth Moore, Claire Fontaine and now – as a final installment – Annette Kelm. Gillick’s meta-structure will be dismantled as Kelm’s show closes.


Witte de With, KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin) and the Kunsthalle Zurich will co-publish with Walter Koenig Books a new monograph on Annette Kelm’s work. This will feature a dialogue between Susanne Pfeffer (KW), Beatrix Ruf (Kunsthalle Zurich) and Nicolaus Schafhausen (Witte de With), essays by Caoimhin Mac Giollaleith and Zoë Gray, and a text by Dirk von Lowtzow. The book is designed by Hendrik Schwantes and will be published in English, Dutch and German, to appear in late February 2009.
ISBN and price to be announced.

—With Thanks To:

Johann Koenig, Berlin; Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.; Goethe Institut, Rotterdam