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Standing in front of an Andreas Gursky photograph can be a dizzying experience. Not only are his works physically imposing in scale, but they depict massive and engulfing structures or landscapes. The latter is the subject of an exhibition that opens this week at the Parrish Art Museum, “Andreas Gursky: Landscapes” (on view through October 18). The exhibition is sponsored by Douglas Elliman‘s art-related initiative, ArtElliman—a program that celebrates the relationship between art and real estate.
Curator Terrie Sultan looked at over three decades of the German artist’s work to pull together 20 photographs, several of which have not yet been seen in the United States. Sultan chose works that best related to artistic and conceptual ideas in 19th-century landscapes, such as those connected with the Hudson River School, for example. “With the Parrish’s deep connection to the history of landscape depiction through painting and photography, looking at Gursky’s work through this lens is apt,” she said in a recent statement.
Sultan describes Gursky’s approach to landscape as more about what the artist would envision, rather than the literal panorama or topography, as say, a painter might depict. “Gursky brings his singular point of view to the way in which he captures or creates images,” she said when Whitewall caught up with her earlier this summer. To capture such majestic and expansive vistas with the absolutely perfect composition he wanted to achieve, Gursky would search thousands of miles to find an exact location. With the advent of digital technologies, the tedium of travel became less necessary, as he started to create compositions from a combination of digital elements. “He once said that having digital technology available to him has changed the way he makes images—from a ‘seeker’ looking for the perfect composition to having the opportunity to envision and then create a different kind of reality,” Sultan told us. “As Andreas said to me in an interview, ‘Before [digital] I felt that I would always be dependent on the physical world . . . because I have digital possibilities, I can work more independently. I am not a painter, but I have the same freedom now.’”
Although this show focuses on his landscapes, even his architectural, interior, or urban shots are so monumental and awe-inspiring in scale and scope that they can feel like landscapes. “Whether a landscape, still life, interior, or architectural detail, Gursky’s photographic images embody his overall view of the world and how we humans live in it. If you look at the textbook definition of landscape as a depiction of an expanse of scenery observed from a single viewpoint, I would say that Gursky epitomizes this very pure notion,” said Sultan.
And Gursky would agree, as he said in a statement to the museum, “For me, it doesn’t matter if I deal with landscape, still life, interior, or architecture. For me it is just so much about my view of the world.”