This week, Work on Monday looks at “Bangkok IX,” one of German artist Andreas Gursky‘s monumental photographs from his Landscapes exhibition, currently on view at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. Open through October 18, the show looks at select images from various points in Gursky’s career—all of which inform his long term exploration of the landscape and the many forms that may take.
Each Work on Monday column looks at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.
Andreas Gursky (b. 1955, Leipzig, Germany)
212 x 87 inches, 2011
Upon first glance, “Bangkok IX,” with its wavering pillars of black and larger fields of almost uninterrupted gray, immediately brings to mind the Abstract Expressionist works of Clyfford Still—a reference surely not lost on Gursky. The piece’s full scope comes into focus as the eyes linger a little longer and we see it is the reflection of light on what appears to be somewhat polluted water.
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This use of light and water is, of course, not exactly new in the world of photography—it’s a trick used time and again by amateur shutterbugs testing the possibilities of their medium, but it is also a clear demonstration of those possibilities. The illuminated reflection, and Gursky’s inclusion of trash and detritus floating on and hovering just below the surface, does what good photography should; it presents something that cannot be recreated by even the most skilled painter. The similarity, and vast difference, between “Bangkok IX” and one of Still’s paintings may be about exactly this point—painting plastic bottles, bits of trash and plant life wouldn’t work on a canvas the way it does in Gursky’s digitally manipulated photograph.
And so we see the piece has a bit more going on than a few formal tricks of light, and that’s before even getting into the greater story of Thailand’s devastating 2011 floods and the loss of so much beneath the deluge that enveloped their capital city. With this in mind, Gursky turns his lens toward the floodwaters, revealing beauty and stillness in the very thing that left so much death and damage in its wake.
Andreas Gursky: Lanscapes is on view at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill (279 Montauk Hwy.) through October 18. Call 631-283-2118 or visit parrishart.org for more info.