Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf
23 September 2012 – 13 January 2013
While photography made possible for painting, its emancipation from the traditional image function about 100 years ago, photography in the age of digital media seems to be able to emancipate itself from merely reproducing what it has seen by way of reportage. Although Andreas Gursky, as a photographer, also assumes a concrete visual experience, the actual artistic process in the studio only results from a review of the image quality of the collected material: on the computer, of course, reality is not corrected to an idealized appearance, but it makes a picture that delivers this reality. The result reveals tht Andreas Gursky dealt intensively with pictorial concepts of painting in this process of figuration: the interior of a liquid tank in “Qatar” (2012) by highlighting the alignment lines as a tunnel-like golden vault. The viewer is attracted by associations with perspective constructions in Renaissance painting. If movement blurring occurs in the work “Tokyo, Stock Exchange” (1990), then Gursky corrects it later in the creative phases, including the “Qatar” motif: the digital revision leads to a higher degree of precision in the depth of field. The slats of the golden-shimmering metal wall seem to become independent; they become obscure on the edges and dissolve at the edges of the picture even in soft lines with gentle curvy turns.
In the two rooms for temporary exhibitions of the Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast Andreas Gursky has arranged a work overview with 60 works from the early 1980s to the present day, although not chronologically, but nevertheless so that his artistic development in this period is well traceable. In terms of content, he was very interested in the uniformity of certain social situations and structures in architecture and landscape. In the stock market motive, e.g. all white shirts or dark suits, and along with the bright desk surfaces, these light and dark sections condense into a black and white weave as a basic pattern of image composition. Similarly, when picking up a basketwork in the Vietnamese “Nha Trang” (2004), the orange shirts of the workforce spread across the canvas like a rhythmic ornament. Here, the photographer sees a painterly look, which leads to a visual aesthetic in the further process, with which Gursky consciously distinguishes himself from the photojournalistic photo reportage. This is also clearly evident in the recordings of car racing circuits and the Tour de France, where the focus is not on the sporting spectacle, but on the asphalt runway, which stretches across the scene as a broad, curvy-dynamic line and in color with the immediate landscape Environment contrasts.
Where the sports or event photographer often selects an individual motif based on the criterion of the optimal news value for the publication from an almost cinematic sequence of quick snapshots, the photo artist Gursky is concerned with a pictorial construction with the methodical principle of montage: with the recording of the colorful Umbrellas on the beach meet different perspectives.
For this method of montage, “Montparnasse” (1993) with the reproduction of a broad Parisian block can be considered a key picture: here Andreas Gursky has arranged two individual pictures almost side by side in a panoramasque manner. The partly completely, partly only half-drawn curtains spread over the entire picture area as colorful fields of color; Together with the façade grid, these color spots form an ornament in compositional terms with a strict, structurally arranged order.
What is already vaguely recognizable here in the work examples of the 1990s in terms of painterly stance then becomes even clearer in the most recent works: In the “Bangkok” series (2011), the white line of water reflection experiences a graphic and painterly alienation. However, the subtleties 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 replace the intuition of the original in the exhibition even in the digital age.
In these more recent works, Gursky breaks through photographic realism, which still defines the atmosphere of images in the photography of the angler on the banks of the Ruhr, to the painterly abstraction, which he infuses into the conceptual orientation of the overall picture: these painterly elements are by no means an artistic end in themselves but always a conceptual element of order.