Andreas Gursky

Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
23 September 2012 – 13 January 2013

While photography paved the way for the emancipation of painting from its traditional image function about 100 years ago, photography in the digital media age seems to be able to emancipate itself from merely reproducing what it has seen by way of reportage. Andreas Gursky is one artist who records actual visual experiences . The artistic process in the studio only is limited to a review of the image quality of the collected material. Reality is not manipulated to an idealized appearance in a computer. The pictures themselves are able to delivers the idealized reality. The result reveals how Andreas Gursky dealt intensively with pictorial concepts of painting in this process of figuration. The interior of a liquid tank in “Qatar” (2012) was made by highlighting the alignment lines of a golden vault. The photo is arresting with associations to Renaissance perspective constructions. The movement blurring we see in “Tokyo, Stock Exchange” (1990), is also improved in this series. His digital revision leads to a more precise depth of field. The slats of the shimmering metal wall seem to jump out of the composition. They become obscure and gradually dissolve on the edges of the picture through soft lines with gentle curves.

Andreas Gursky has arranged an overview with 60 works from the early 1980s to the present day in the two halls for temporary exhibitions at the Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast. It shows a traceable artistic development through different periods even if the exhibition is not arranged chronologically.

Gursky seemed more interested in the affinities of certain social situations and architectural structures. In the stock market series, all the people wear white shirts or dark suits and the bright surfaces of desks form light and dark sections which weave a basic pattern of image composition. The same goes with orange shirts of Vietnamese basket weavers spread across the canvas in “Nha Trang” (2004), . The photographer sees a painterly character that informs his visual aesthetic and artistic process. In this manner, Gursky consciously distinguishes himself from photojournalistic reportage. This is also evident in the photographs of car racing circuits and the Tour de France, where the focus is not on the sporting spectacle but on the asphalt runway. It stretches across the scene as a broad, dynamic curve that contrasts with the landscape.

Where the sports or event photographer often selects an individual motif based on the criterion of newsworthiness for the publication, quickly examined from a sequence of contact prints, the photographer artist like Gursky is concerned with a pictorial construction with the methodical principle of montage.

“Montparnasse” (1993) a reproduction of a broad Parisian block can be considered a good example of his montage. Here Andreas Gursky juxtaposed two pictures side by side in a panorama-like view. The half-drawn curtains spread over the entire picture creates a field of color which forms a strong compositional pattern with the grid of the facade.

What is vaguely recognizable in the work from the 1990s in terms of painterly stance becomes clearer in more recent works: in the “Bangkok” series (2011), the white line of water reflection is rendered with graphic and painterly distinction. The subtleties, however can only be seen when looking at the exhibit in its original size–smaller illustrations in the catalog or on the internet are not enough to capture the appeal of the original even with advances in the digital age.

Gursky breaks through photographic realism in recent works–which is most defined in the atmosphere of Mülheim an der Ruhr, Angler
(1989)– in order to achieve a look of painterly abstraction. Heinfuses a conceptual orientation to his picture. The painterly elements are not an artistic end in themselves but a means for conceptual order.