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Lucinda Devlin – Frames of Reference

An exhibition of the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur in collaboration with the artist | Duration: March 10 – July 16, 2023

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American artist Lucinda Devlin rose to fame in the 1990s with a series of soberly observed photographs of execution rooms in US correctional facilities titled “The Omega Suites.” The images caused a sensation at the Venice Biennale in 2001. One of the motifs had already attracted attention in 1992 when it was featured in a controversial advertising campaign for an Italian fashion label. “The Omega Suites” is one of nine photographic series, along with a video, on view in Frames of Reference, the first large-scale survey to be devoted to Lucinda Devlin in Europe.

Devlin, part of the New Color Photography movement, seeks out her motifs mainly in interiors that serve specific functions. Most of her subjects are in the USA, but she has also done projects in Germany and other countries. In the mid-2000s, the artist added landscape scenes to her repertoire.

In the series “Pleasure Ground” (1977–1990), for example, Devlin provides glimpses of hotel rooms with fantasy themes, discotheques, and beauty salons – places that promise relaxation and enjoyment. By contrast, the interiors in the “Corporal Arenas” series (1982–1998) like operating rooms for human or animal patients, treatment spaces, and morgues are reproduced here in all objectivity.

Devlin did not intend her photographs of the series “The Omega Suites” (1991–1998) – taken in maximum-security prisons – to be understood as a statement for or against the death penalty. Contemplation of these very specific spaces is instead meant as an encouragement to engage personally with a difficult subject.

With the support of a DAAD grant, Devlin shot her series “Water Rites” (1999–2002) in German spas, adding a new twist to “Corporal Arenas.” “Water Rites” takes a look at what are in some cases time-honored institutions devoted to promoting well-being as well as to healing and convalescence. In Devlin’s “Subterranea” series (ongoing since 1980), she focuses her lens on caves and tunnels that have been made accessible for various uses, reproducing in her pictures the luminous colors generated by artificial lighting schemes installed underground. That Devlin’s interests extend beyond spaces occupied by humans is evident from her “Habitats” series (ongoing since 1985), which spotlights zoo enclosures and aquariums that are modeled on natural animal habitats.

The "Field Culture" series (primarily since 2007) also focuses on the products and equipment of industrial agriculture.

Since 2010, Lucinda Devlin has also been working on formally strict landscape studies on Lake Huron in Michigan and on the American salt lakes and salt fields in Utah.

The exhibition has been made possible by generous loans from the artist; Galerie m, Bochum; DZ Bank, Frankfurt/Main; and private lenders.

A publication will accompany the exhibition, featuring essays by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Lucinda Devlin, and Claudia Schubert, as well as an interview conducted with the artist by Lisa Le Feuvre (Steidl Verlag, approx. 300 pages, DE/EN).

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Im Mediapark 7, 50670 Köln, phone: +49 221/888 95 300, email: photographie( at )sk-kultur.de, www.photographie-sk-kultur.de

Opening hours: daily except Wednesdays from 2 to 7 pm.

Admission: 6,50 € (reduced 4 €), first Monday of the month free admission!

“Long Thursday”: The collection is open until 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month, free entry from 5 p.m.

Public tours are held weekly on Sundays at 3 p.m. each week. Thematic focus on the first Sunday of each month (The tours are held in German, English on request).

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