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Thoughts On Andreas Gursky

July 28, 2012

Andreas Gursky is one of my favorite living artists. I realize that not everyone has the same tastes as I do and that’s what makes America great, every opinion has the potential for validity. A few months ago I happened upon a discussion of Gursky’s work on a photography forum. This was not a forum for discussion of art although that type of discussion can be found there as it pertains to photography specifically. The discussion centered around the fact that “Rhein II” had sold for $4.3 million. It seems that many photographers feel anger or confusion over this sale, more than one comment I have seen since the sale states that the photograph looks like a reject from vacation photos. The kind of photo no one would (or should?) look at twice. This is the same criticism that Jackson Pollock faced when he presented his drip paintings to the world. People said, “I could do that”, without much regard for what they actually meant by making that statement. Undoubtedly this was a reactionary response to the work, a first thought when confronted with something different. What these critics are really arguing is that the work is a scam, the images on the wall require no more work than a casual snap shot taken on a vacation where there are more important things happening (than art).

We value the work that goes into the making of art almost (sometimes more than) the object itself. The process is an integral part of many artists concept. Take, for instance, another of my artistic heroes Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Their art work was as much about the process as the finished piece. Many hours have gone into the planning and execution of this work. The same can be said of much of Gursky’s work. In the case of “Rhein II”  much  of the work was done in post production, where Gursky altered the image to suite his vision. There is a lot of work done to these images even though the final product doesn’t show us this.

Rhein II is a large piece as are most of Gursky’s work. Most of the appeal of his images is the experience one feels standing in front of them. This is a much different experience that seeing the image on a monitor at a size of 11×14 or smaller.

I am not advocating that everyone like Gursky or Pollock or Rothko or Warhol. I would just like to see a better reason for not liking the work than a statement like “I could have done that”.  Maybe we can discuss the unconventional form of the photograph in the context of the history of photographic art, instead of saying we don’t like it…just because.

From → art, photography

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