Rencontres d'Arles: Espace Van Gogh opens "Romain Urhausen: In His Time"

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Rencontres d'Arles: Espace Van Gogh opens "Romain Urhausen: In His Time"
Romain Urhausen, Untitled, 1950s-1960s. Courtesy Romain Urhausen / Romain Urhausen’s Collection.

ARLES.- Prolific but little known in France, Luxembourg photographer Romain Urhausen stands out for his singular style extending between the French humanist school and the German subjective school of the 1950s and 1960s, to which he actively contributed. His tinged with humor photographs, often a pretext for formal and poetic exploration, go beyond a classic depiction of reality.

The exhibition shows how Urhausen took an experimental approach to daily life, working men, the cityscape, the nude and the self-portrait. The subjective aesthetic he learned from Otto Steinert influenced his formal language, treatment of contrasts, framing and way of seeing the world differently. The show highlights this vision, setting up a dialogue between Urhausen’s photographs and those of his peers by creating new "elective affinities".

Keen to make photography his profession, Urhausen commenced studies in Paris at the age of 20. Images of street life ensued: humanist images characterized by humour and an eye for the ‘decisive moment’. Even though Paris had much to offer photographically, Urhausen found his studies there rather discouraging and thus switched to the Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk in Saarbrücken, where from 1951 until 1953 he studied under Dr Otto Steinert (1915-1978) who founded the photographic movement ‘subjective photography’, circa 1950.

In contrast to Steinert, Urhausen’s interest in humanity has always been at the heart of his photographic endeavours. Nonetheless, Urhausen never entirely renounced Steinert’s stylistic ‘subjective photography’ devices. This is best revealed in well-known series such as Esch, Rumelange, The Mosel, the nudes and the well-known series about Les Halles in Paris, which Urhausen had published in collaboration with Jacques Prévert. The portrait is also among Urhausen’s most important art forms. Here he presents personalities from disparate fields or random encounters with people on the street. Almost incidental to all these works are published documentary images of Saarbrücken, Dortmund, Spain, Corsica, Greece, Yugoslavia, Cuba und Luxemburg. Compelling series and commissioned photographs found their place in publications, in addition to a variety of international books and magazines. At the end of the 60s Urhausen devoted himself to architectural photography – not least due to his considerable interest in architecture – which was self-taught and then developed into a career.

In addition to his practice as a photographer and architect, Urhausen advanced further skills and worked professionally as an interior architect, furniture designer, graphic designer and filmmaker. Alongside photography he was also artistically involved with the design and production of sculptures and jewellery.

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