The show at the Hammer, in fact, is less random and chaotic than most of his exhibitions. Tillmans says he has hung it in a way that's so traditional it "undermines what some people have come to expect from me."
Although there are shifts in scale, there are fewer "dense clusters of pictures and aggressive collisions of different subject matter," he says. Each picture has more space here, in a more orderly grouping.
"In a way this calms things down," he says. "Chicago was a bit of an explosion of the entire world on the walls. I feel this calmer approach may be better for this hyperactive and lowattention-span city," he says, apologizing for his conceit. "It's connected to things I really like about the West Coast, like the contemplation of nature."
Ferguson praises the work for its combination of classical beauty and thoughtfulness, compositional rigor and a light touch.
"It's a good time to have a survey show of Wolfgang's work in the U.S., because he's been so influential as an artist," he says. "But at the same time there's been so much misunderstanding of his work in this country. People have formed their ideas about his work seeing very small sections of it."
To his detractors, Tillmans is a fashion photographer punching above his weight. "I have no idea why Tillmans is supposed to be an artist," critic Mathew Collings wrote in the Observer shortly before the Turner was awarded. "If he wins, the message will be that the Tate ... wants to get down and boogie in an embarrassing way with the youthful airheads who read the Face."
But Tillmans, who considers his magazine shots of a piece with his own work, sees himself as part of a lineage longer than Kate Moss and Boy George's Culture Club.
"Photography is only a continuation of sculpture and painting," he says. "I see myself in the tradition of picture-making. It has nothing to do with what happened 150 years ago; that was just technological change. There was a change with the invention of oil painting as well.
"Art that stays has invented new ways of picture-making," he says. "If I can invent something once a year, for 50 years, I'm very happy."
Where: UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays
Dates: Sept. 17 through Jan. 7
Price: $3 to $5
Contact: (310) 443-7000; www.hammer.ucla.edu