Union Station I, Los Angeles, California

Lothar Baumgarten

Rheinsberg, Germany, 1944 - Berlin, Germany, 2018
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    Gelatin silver print on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    38,8 x 57 cm
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To produce Carbon, Lothar Baumgarten spent months travelling the United States railway network, so closely linked in its origins to the colonisation of the American continent. The photographer highlights the way the names of the various lines refer to the clash of two worlds: the continent’s native inhabitants and the pioneers occupying the American West. A large number of Chinese migrant workers were employed in the construction of the railway, adding a third continent to the mix. As Baumgarten put it: “An impressive fabric of tracks and sophisticated bridges was thus woven, built upon the pillars of Indian expropriation and Chinese exploitation.” The completed project, made up of thousands of photographs, mural drawings, texts, sound recordings, studies of typography and graphic design, was made into an artist’s book in 1991, with photographs accompanied by eleven stories. As a representative sample of the project, the Museo Reina Sofía collection holds fourteen photographs and a mural drawing containing the names of the railway lines. Photographs and drawing are exhibited together as a special installation.
Throughout his work, Baumgarten reveals the influence of his father’s profession of anthropologist, and his own experience of living among the Amazonian Yanomami tribe in Venezuela. Through his focus on the relationship between the natural landscape and human culture, Baumgarten questions the conventionalisms of Western perception, and occupies a place in the field of artist as ethnologist-anthropologist.

Concha Calvo Salanova