Mathematics, machines and man

Few can have had as varied a career as 95-year-old Alexandre Vitkine. Trained as an electromechanical engineer, Vitkine became a photographer and graphic artist, before moving into sculpture. He was also involved in pioneering work on rapid prototyping technology and computer-generated art, and is a founder (with Christian Lavigne) of Ars Mathematica, dedicated to the intersection of electronica, technology and art. A show in London features some 40 vintage and contemporary prints of his little shown industrial and architectural photography from the 1960s, though that is a description that sells the striking images short. The images are the result of a fair amount of darkroom manipulation, to reduce the structures of Modernity, such as pylons, cranes and bridges, to silhouettes that manifest their bare essentials. The obsession with technology is present on both side of the lens and the final images are the result of Vitkine’s technical innovations and experimentation. The inclusion of people working on these austere structures only adds to the haunting and exquisitely-honed nature of the images, which manage both to suggest a heroic techno-Futurism and a barren, dehumanised landscape.

By John Stones

Alexandre Vitkine/ Industrial Silhouettes runs from 4 March to 22 April at Hackelbury, 4 Launceston Place, London W8. Tel: 020 7937 8688

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