Art + Science: The Pandemic: Renate Aller
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the artists who were able to avoid severe illness or hospitalization were given a unique gift of time to respond to our world in a state of upheaval. Many were inspired to create new projects that responded to the unique time in our world. Others had the opportunity to revisit archives and return to unfinished work. This week features photography projects created during this time, focusing on unique connections that emphasize a calling for empathy, friendship or love.
This project is in the spirit of Rainer Maria Rilke:
“… that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other”
Renate Aller is a visual artist born in Germany and lives and works in New York. Her project “side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020” was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a response to social distancing. While people were physically separated from one another, Aller safely created a bridge of connectivity. On separate occasions, she invited friends and neighbors to visit her on her sidewalk or in their street, positioned her camera in a self-timer mode and photographed moments of their time spent together. The setting included two people, two chairs, and a sidewalk. A sense of community is reestablished as Aller shares simple interactions bringing people safely together.
“side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020” published by Kehrer Verlag, Germany, 2022 includes essays by Marilyn S. Kushner and Lara Pan.
We are all looking at art and life now, more than ever before—through the lens of our times—art in the time of COVID -19 and our current sociopolitical awareness heightened by the recent events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and many others, as well as the Ukrainian people’s pain and isolation.
This time in history reminds me of the period right after 9/11. I took images of interiors as the drama was one of the exterior, the monumentality of this city was attacked and therefore I pointed the lens into the private spaces. We were all afraid for our own safety then. Today we are feeling pain and are more afraid for others. As a reaction to people’s lives in solitude … For most of April and May 2020, I created this photo project by hosting friends and neighbors on our sidewalk or visiting them in their street from a safe 6’ distance, with face masks, the camera in self-timer mode recording these encounters.
These sidewalk visits gave us a deep sense of community where community had been forced apart.
I would like to thank my husband Hugh and each of the collaborators who made our encounters special and meaningful.
Born in Germany, Renate Aller lives and works in New York. Her project “side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020”, is in the permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society Museum accompanied by a monograph published by Kehrer Verlag, Germany with essays by curator and writer Lara Pan and Marilyn Satin Kushner, curator of prints, photographs, and architectural collections at New-York Historical who is also the curator for this exhibition.
Aller’s work is in the collections of corporate institutions, private collectors and museums, including Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Yale University Art Gallery, CT; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; New Britain Museum of American Art, CT; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany; Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI; Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle, Switzerland; Parrish Art Museum, Watermill, NY and New-York Historical Society Museum, where side walk 6’ apart NYC, April – May 2020 will be presented as a solo exhibition from March 11 – July 10th, 2022.
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