In choosing Lewis Baltz for their latest exhibition, Le BAL has once again proven the value of their radical project, giving space to the masters of documentary photography despite the sometimes bleak outlook of their work. With Baltz, an austere minimalism takes over BAL's exhibition space in a former dance hall, which was converted into a cultural centre in 2006. Without hope, beauty or poetry, Baltz's landscapes capture vegetation dusted with rubbish, and his villages are soulless places that don't believe in anything any more.
It's tough viewing, but the work is meticulous and sometimes surprising. Behind what Dominique Païni, co-curator of the exhibition, calls his 'expressionist fatalism' (those white spaces and brutal contrasts), you can glimpse a fascination with the films of Godard, Hitchcock and Antonioni, which Baltz spend his youth watching in American movie theatres. Le BAL emphasises this angle, projecting film extracts in the middle of the exhibition space. As Baltz himself remarked, 'It could be useful to think of photography like a deep, narrow space between the novel and the film'.