Andreas Gursky (Leipzig, Germany, 1955) is one of the most renowned German photographers today. Proof of his recognition is this exhibition at the Palacio de Velázquez which comes from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first retrospective in this museum of a German artist from his generation.
A student of Otto Steinert during his years living in Essen and of Bern Becher during his formative training in the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, the inventor of subjective photography Gursky would be shaped by the influence of artistic experimentation that Joseph Beuys encourages at his school when he was appointed professor of sculpture in 1961. The German photographer adds to the avant-garde environment at Düsseldorf-Cologne his own original experience, which he gains at his family business where he becomes familiar with, from a very young age, commercial photography.
Contact with Henri Cartier-Bresson’s style during the Seventies, when the proliferation of galleries, museum programmes and publications supported photographic creation and the influence of the appearance of American photographers such as Dan Graham, the Canadian Jeff Wall, the German Jochen Gerz and Frenchman Jean Le Gac in the Eighties, all helped create his unique style based on large formats, simplicity, composition rigour and colour sophistication as well as an on-going dialogue with the history of painting.
It is in his exterior photographs, those that depict mountain sceneries, waterfalls and highways, where you can appreciate the immensity of the environment in contrast to the smallness of what is human. Some examples from this exhibition are Klausenpass, (1984); Seilbahn, Dolomiten, (1987); Aletschgletscher (Aletsch glaciar), (1993); Niagara Falls, (1989) and Autobahn, Bremen, (1991).
Repetition plays a very important role in Gursky’s work. In his photos there are often accumulations of similar objects, which, despite the apparent complexity, maintain an implicit order. The outdoor storage of cars that are features in Salerno, (1990), the worktables of factory workers in Siemens, Karlsruhe, (1991), the cars waiting to board a ferry in Genoa, (1991), the thousands of books on the shelves of Bibliothek, (1999) or the products lining the shelves of a supermarket in 99 cent (1999) remind us of the characteristics of a globalised world and document a lifestyle based on photographic constructions like in Prada I, (1996) which depicts a shoe display from a store, a vision created with a computer by Gursky himself, who incorporates into his photographic technique the advantages of technological advances in the photographic process. Digital Manipulation serves Gursky to create an invented world in which the spectator of his photographs immediately recognises himself.
This exhibition, from 1984 until today, allows for an appreciation of geometry in Gursky’s images. The diagonal of the bridge and the fenced land behave like two converging lines that cross the composition in Ruhrtal (1989) and in Breitscheider Kreuz, (1990) where geometry is imposed again. These compositions contrast with those entropic ones from the Tokyo Stock Exchange or different raves which show crowds of hundreds of people.
Finally this exhibition makes patent Gursky’s interest to immortalise the usual dynamics of sporting events such as a football match, in Zürich I (1985), group swimming in Neujahrsschwimmer (New Year's Day Swimmers), (1988), a mountain descent in Albertville, (1992), the horse races at Sha Tin, (1994) or the boxing in Klitschko, (1999).
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (March 4 - May 15, 2001)