Andreas Gursky: Interview with Insight
“Do you think this picture can hold this wall?” Andreas Gursky asks. He is pointing to Rhine II, which is sitting on blocks on the floor at the Vancouver Art Gallery where he is installing the exhibition, “Werke/Works 80–08.”
It can hold a single wall, even at its radically reduced size. Just 7 of the more than 70 photographs on view are the kinds of big pictures this famed German photographer is known for making. The others are small, hardly bigger than the colour plates in one of the books on his celebrated work. Rhine II, framed, measures 42.3 by 63.5 centimetres, whereas the largest of the large photographs on view, Frankfurt, is 237 by 504 centimetres.
The monumental and the miniature are put side by side here so that Gursky can, for the first time, mount a full retrospective exhibition; this would be impossible with his large pictures. The Vancouver Art Gallery co-organized this show with the Kunstmuseen Krefeld in Germany and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, where the full complement of 130 works was shown. Gursky, who habitually lays out his own shows, pared down the original exhibition to fit the Vancouver space. At every venue, the photographs were presented in a different arrangement; Gursky sees each of them as its own world.
Rhine II pictures a contemporary river as a treatise on man’s control of nature, a landscape image that reads as straightedge geometry in a series of horizontal bands of colour and texture. The photograph is stunning large; it addresses the viewer’s body and perceptual senses. Yet it also reads at a more intimate size, which requires the viewer’s mental projection to enter its space. The size of the work affects its reception, of course, offering two different experiences. With the small prints, Gursky is returning his work to the realm of pre-big-picture photography, and he says he can imagine making small prints again in the future.
“For me, it was very interesting to think again about the sizes of the work,” says Gursky, who is 54 years old. “In the last years, I always produce the big works because I am accustomed to the size and because I normally work a very long time for one picture, and because I am showing in museums that ask for big sizes. The post-production sometimes takes a year and I am not working on so many different pictures at one time. In the last years, my production was more than before, but sometimes it is only three or four pictures a year.
“Now, because I have produced my whole body of work in a small size for the show in Krefeld, it has made me rethink size. I find that there are some of the big works which I show now as small ones that work very well, maybe even better than in the big size. It’s a new experience for me, and this is why I mix them all up.”Page 2 »