Hyperallergic.com alerted me to a fabulously haunting and gorgeous exhibition from German photographer Henning Rogge, which opens July 17 at RH Contemporary Art in Manhattan. The Beautiful Changes is a series of color photos Rogge took in Germany of bomb-scarred WWII landscapes, and how nature has responded over the 70 years since the war’s end in 1945. This is an obscure subject few of us consider, but Rogge hasn’t forgotten, and via aerial maps and considerable exploration of old battlegrounds has located a gallery’s worth of potent artifacts. “What interests me about the craters,” said Rogge, “is their ambiguity, the contrast of the calm, almost idyllic appearance to the sudden force they originated from. They are special to me because they show at the same time something that remains and something that is missing.”
Craters, over decades, became ponds. Microcosms of "aquatic biota": insects, frogs, fish, and—in heavily hammered Vietnam—even eels. An unintended side-effect of that war, in equally bomb-punched Laos, resulted in substantial wetlands growing across the rapidly (in historical terms) altered landscape. I find Rogge's work, the very idea, brilliant and melancholy, resonant with lingering trauma of the human kind. These stark yet lush images remind me of the late J.G. Ballard's best work (particularly his "condensed novels," such as 1970's The Atrocity Exhibition). Life reclaims places once lacerated by horror, transforms them into emotionally charged emblems.
The Beautiful Changes exhibition is at RH Contemporary Art (437 West 16th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) July 17 to September 13.
(Many thanks to Allison Meier for making me aware of Rogge's work.)