Artwork Detail

Josephine in tube, from Portrait series
German, b. 1968
16 x 12 "
University purchase, Charles H. Yalem Art Fund, 2001
WU 2001.0012.0015
Wolfgang Tillmans’s intimate portraits of passengers on the London Tube thematize altered constitutions of space and time in our transitory urban landscape. Shot in the “non-place” of the subway system, these tightly framed portraits share a fragmentation that parallels the experience of spatial and temporal dislocation in modern society. In "Josephine in tube" we see parts of a standing man and a seated woman whose gaze is directed somewhere outside of the picture frame. Separated by a vertical pole, their bodies seem to almost touch, creating a palpable sense of tension. "Victoria Line, glass partition" (WU 2001.0012.0008) conveys a more compressed space—juxtaposing the unfocused stare of another seated woman shown in profile with the back of a passenger’s jacket and a disembodied hand grasping a blue pole—while "Lutz in tube" (WU 2001.0012.0003) focuses on one man’s detached expression. Examining the distracted faces of each of Tillmans’s subjects, one might intimate sensations of monotony or boredom. While travel on subway trains can distort perceptions of space and distance and generate feelings of disconnection, it also offers an alternative to the inundation of stimuli and temporal disruptions characteristic of urban experience—a moment of possible rest and contemplation. [Exhibition brochure text, 2014]