Gursky is a visual artist before he is a photographer. Photography and the incredible programs of the computer are the means of creating images that are about something, images that work. Precisely by flirting fundamentally with the possible truth of the image and then bringing it into play in an overarching manoeuvre, Gursky is able to insist on the necessity of the artistic image in our continuing efforts to recognize the world we live in. Gursky’s photographs are visual art, Gurksy’s visual art is photography when it is most captivating and almost dizzyingly real – that is, unrealistically real.
The exhibition deals with photography and its boundaries. Many of Gursky’s pictures come close to the painterly, others appear highly photographic. With 45 of the artist’s mega-photographs and about 26 smaller photographs, Louisiana’s exhibition spans all of Gursky’s output right up to the very latest photographs that were presented at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, in the autumn of 2011. The exhibition thus gives the viewer the opportunity to follow the transformations and transformative power of the pictures over more than two decades. Gursky is an artist of the individual work – but over the last two years he has produced two series, Ocean, 2010, of which Ocean I and III are on show in the exhibition, and in 2011 another series of brand new works with the overall title Bangkok, six of which are included in the exhibition. This is the first time these photographs have been shown in a museum, or indeed in Europe at all.
The exhibition is curated by the director of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Poul Erik Tøjner, in close dialogue with the artist.
A flirt with the truth of the image
At the beginning of the 1980s, Gursky studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf with his contemporaries Thomas Ruff, Axel Hütte, Candida Höfer and several others under the legendary couple Bernd and Hilla Becher.
For more than twenty years he has worked with photography in a format that matches the great painted compositions of art and seduces the viewers into thinking that with these technically perfect photos they have come close to reality. But this is in fact not the case.
Most of the pictures, it turns out, represent something that can be seen, but are not themselves the product of being seen – not even by the one eye of the camera. Sometimes Gursky actually builds his pictures up in the computer from the photographic shots he has taken, often from a tall tower or a helicopter – he is art’s answer to extreme sport – and sometimes he uses the computer to control colours and retouch the pictures; but the finished picture grows out of hours of work weaving the many individual shots together into a single picture.
The COMPUTER is not the mean of creating images
We were behind the scenes when the giant works was hung up on the walls in the south wing and by the opening of the exhibition, where Poul Erik Tøjner explains how and why Gursky work with manipulation and computer.