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"Recent Photographs by Andreas Gursky"
2001-03-04 until 2001-05-15
Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY, USA

The first major United States exhibition of the work of contemporary German artist Andreas Gursky opens at The Museum of Modern Art on March 4, 2001. Andreas Gursky presents some 45 photographs dating from 1984 to the present, with an emphasis on work since 1990, when Gursky began to focus on distinctly contemporary themes - and invented equally contemporary ways of picturing them. Organized by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator, Department of Photography, the exhibition includes many works never before seen in this country, including several pictures made within the past year. The exhibition is accompanied by a large-format book that includes 59 color plates, generous details, and a richly illustrated essay by Mr. Galassi offering the first in-depth study of Gursky's art.

From Tokyo to New York, Paris to Brasília, Cairo, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Bonn, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, Gursky has sought out signs of our times - vast hotel lobbies, apartment buildings, warehouses, sporting championships, parliaments, international stock exchanges, and massive techno-music raves. His large photographs, some as wide as 16 feet, saturated with color and detail, present a stunning image of a world transformed by high-tech industry, global markets, easy travel, and slick commerce. Mr. Galassi states, Gursky's bold, alluring, surprising pictures have won him widespread recognition as one of the most original artists of his generation, and with good reason. For his commanding signature style has arisen from a risky process of experiment that draws upon a great diversity of images, ideas, and methods.

Andreas Gursky was born in 1955 in Leipzig and grew up in Düsseldorf, where he was introduced to photography at a young age by his father, a successful commercial photographer. In the late 1970s, he studied at the Folkwangschule in Essen, which Otto Steinert had established as West Germany's leading school of traditional photography. In the early 1980s, he entered the class of Bernd Becher at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where he earned the distinction Meisterschüler, or master student, in 1987.

Beginning in the late 1950s, Bernd and Hilla Becher had developed a distinctive photographic aesthetic, devoted to the anonymous, neglected architecture of heavy industry. Their systematic, impersonal approach was alien to Steinert's Subjective Photography movement, but in the 1960s their work was embraced by adherents of the new Minimal and Conceptual art movements. Their rising prominence in the art world won Bernd Becher a professorship at the Kunstakademie in 1976. Thanks to Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and others, the Kunstakademie had become the focal point of Germany's postwar avant-garde, and there the Bechers soon began to shape a new generation of artist-photographers.

Gursky at first adopted a style and method closely modeled on the work of the Bechers, except that he worked only in color. His most successful student project, for example, was an extended series of sober, uniformly composed photographs of security guards in the lobbies of office buildings. In 1984, however, Gursky began to free himself from the strict Becher model. He reverted to the unstructured method of spontaneous observation that he had pursued at the Folkwangschule, making a series of pictures of hikers, swimmers, tourists, and other groups at leisure. Stylistically, Gursky's pristine, light-filled vistas, such as Klausenpass (1984), drew upon the recent work of Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, and other young Americans, whose detailed views of ordinary places had helped to launch a lively movement of color photography in the 1970s.

Even as the new American color work helped Gursky to chart a path away from the Bechers, their lessons persisted through his adherence to an unvarying pictorial type - a broad prospect populated by tiny figures who are surveyed by a godlike eye that is everywhere and nowhere at once. As Gursky repeated this pattern of artistic development in the years to come, responding to a widening range of imagery and ideas without wholly abandoning his earlier attachments, the resilient core of his work became more and more his own.

Andreas Gursky
Shanghai. 2000
Chromogenic color print
9' 11 5/16 x 6' 9 1/2 (280 x 200 cm)
Lent by the artist,
courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, and
Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne.
2001 Andreas Gursky

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