Vera Isler. Face to Face II

1 February – 6 May 2012

The Swiss artist Vera Isler (b. 1931) first published her photographic portraits of artists in 1992 under the title “Face to Face”. The fact that since 1992 she has done many more portraits of major figures of the international art scene has prompted the Museum Tinguely in Basel and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg to produce this second group of photographs as “Face to Face II”, to be presented in an exhibition and also published in book form. Vera Isler’s portraits differ from other photographs of artists in their directness. She neither photographs in the studio nor uses sophisticated equipment, flash or assistants – rather than the artists coming to her, she goes to the artists, meeting them in their ateliers or even making her first contact with them at exhibitions. This gives her a special capacity for capturing unrepeatable moments or personal encounters without any hint of pose or artificial attitudinizing. Her portraits are realized exclusively in black-and-white in the form of (approximately) life-size prints: the photographer and the artist, the beholder and the person portrayed, meet eye-to-eye. In exhibitions, Vera Isler sets great store by her portrait photos being hung in serried rows, to give visitors the impression of “meeting” the individuals portrayed.

Before finding her way to photography Vera Isler was active in many media and used a variety of techniques, devoting herself to overlaps at the interface between art and the natural sciences and working in the field of three-dimensional art. In the 1970s Vera Isler used disposable medical packaging to create reliefs and objects that she called “programmations”; later she also visualized DNA in her series “genetics”. In this period Vera Isler’s pictures and sculptures were truly pioneering in that they addressed themes that are of burning interest today.

It was only around 1980 that Vera Isler came to photography, by way of series of photographs devoted to the U.S. gay scene and the youth movements of the early 1980s, whose “AJZs” (“autonomous youth centres”) she documented in a book entitled “Kunst der Verweigerung” or “Art of Non-Compliance”. Later her interest as a photographer turned towards old people. Since 1992, however, portraits of photographers and artists have occupied the central position in her work. Over the last ten years she has expanded her range of media techniques in the direction of video and film stills – as has always been the case, Vera Isler’s artistic explorations are still driven by the desire to experiment.

In co-operation with Museum der Moderne, Salzburg (Austria)

>> Trailer of the film Vera Isler – Einen Augenblitz, bitte! a film by Daria Kołacka and Piotr Dżumała