Aperture magazine, issue #213, New York 2013
The first word that comes to my mind when I look at Maria Sewcz’s inter esse series (1985–87) is concrete. The adjective acknowledges the photographs’ solidity, tangibility, actuality, and materiality—their attachment to a specific place and time. The noun, too, asserts itself in Sewcz’s photographs, many of which feature this composite construction material as used in East Berlin, and all of which emulate its gray tonalities and granular textures via the gelatin-silver process. Neither of these senses of concrete can hold off their antonyms: insubstantial, crumbling, reduced to rubble. The photographs not only document a particular moment but also displace it. Considered as documents, the photographs depict cars, architecture, fashions, and gestures. Considered as displacements, they exclude faces, monuments, and signposts.
[…] The work of a student in her mid-twenties, inter esse is self-consciously about living in between and on the brink, caught up in observing oneself and the moment, looking for options, wary of predictions. Even today it escapes the stylistic categories associated with that moment in German photographic history. Unsystematic yet rigorous, the series combines notation and memory. Sewcz’s influences are clear; her individual instincts equally so. Thinking further about the work’s concrete aspects brings to mind two art historical points of reference. First, Concrete Art, a proposition more than a movement, was articulated by Theo van Doesburg in 1930 and manifested in so-called arithmetic drawings and paintings in black, white, and gray. More recently, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a theory of Concrete Photography emerged in Germany with an exhibition and publication of the same name. A deferred curatorial coming-to-terms with Germany’s dual photographic inheritances of subjectivity and objectivity—not to mention its dual political inheritances—Concrete Photography claimed to be wholly self-referential and non-representational. Yet Sewcz’s photographs, excluded from a self-consciously stylistic version of Concrete Photography by virtue of their realism, also stake a claim for abstraction in today’s expanded discussion of both impulses. inter esse remains poised on the brink, the artist and the viewer in the act of discovery.
Britt Salvesen, Head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in: Aperture magazine, issue #213, New York 2013