The photographic oeuvre of Peter Keetman (1916-2005) is central to Germany’s postwar modernism. Shaping the world – the title of exhibition and catalogue indicates, how Keetman’s photographic approach merges two creative tendencies of his time: On the one hand the modernist intention of form and shape, allowing for experiment and abstraction. On the other hand the humanist reference to the world, reflecting and investigating the human being and his surroundings.

Organized by the F.C. Gundlach Foundation and the Museum Folkwang, this first comprehensive retrospective shows how these tendencies are combined and intertwined in the work of Peter Keetman.

The exhibition presents Keetman’s perpetual and creative examination of both aspects, his search of a fresh and relevant photographic expression and his conceptual approach to visual phenomena in a photo-historical prelude and eight chapters. His famous series »One week at the Volkswagen factory 1953« as well as his subtle light-oscillations (1949-1955) – Keetman’s major achievements for modern photography – are presented in comprehensive numbers.

Peter Keetman’s biography and his photographic language are closely tied to German History from the 1930s to the 1960s, from the suppression of avant-garde photography in the Nazi era through World War II to postwar disillusion and the economic miracle. The exhibition includes a substantial selection of Keetman’s early works in the style of New Objectivity as well as his photographs taken during the war against the Soviet Union, in which Keetman looses his left leg.

In the late 1940s, Peter Keetman leaves the aesthetic dogmatism of his teachers behind and joins the secessionist group »fotoform«. Inspired by the experimental approach of avant-garde photography in the 1920s the group developed a new photographic language, based upon formal reduction, upon the creative power of light and upon the subjectivity of individual experience. Together with Otto Steinert and the other members of »fotoform«, Keetman marks a new beginning in photography.

The retrospective shows the fascinating development of German photography starting in the late 1940s. It also illustrates how Keetman avoids the paralyzing danger of formalism by working in several fields of photography – documenting the reconstruction of Munich, discovering the hidden structures of landscape and nature and the big picture in the smallest detail, translating the dynamics of a changing society in abstract images.

This retrospective show is the result of a close cooperation between the F.C. Gundlach Foundation, holding a substantial part of Keetman’s archive as well as his copyrights, and the Museum Folkwang, holding his negative archive and a large number of his work prints.

Senior Curator: F.C. Gundlach
Curators: Sebastian Lux, Petra Steinhardt, Florian Ebner
An exhibition by the Museum Folkwang and the F.C. Gundlach Foundation

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The catalogue will be accompanied by a book published at Steidl Verlag, chronicling the life and work of the artist. Edited by the Museum Folkwang and the F.C. Gundlach Foundation. 304 pages, 48 euros.