Thursday, June 17, 2010

poetic of numbness and stupefaction

"The German über-photographer Andreas Gursky was the perfect pre-9/11 artist. He excelled at portraying the border-to-border, edgeless hum and busy obliviousness of modern life, what Francis Fukuyama ridiculously declared “the end of history,” George W.S. Trow called “The Context of No Context,” and Rem Koolhaas dubbed “Junkspace.” Not only did Gursky seem to be critical of all this, but his handsome images of trading floors, hotel lobbies, raves, and landscapes were charged with a visual force and intellectual rigor that let you imagine that you were gleaning the grand schemes and invisible rhythms of commerce and consumption. His amazing picture of a convenience store brimming with goods, 99 Cent II, Diptych (2001), which recently became the most expensive photo in history when it was auctioned for over $3.3 million, fizzed like cherry cola but packed the formal power of a Monet.

Unfortunately, as smart and deft as this artist still is, that fizz has gone flat, the power has run low, the former buzz has become a drone. The times have changed, but Gursky is still trying to render purring pre-9/11 space, where commerce ticked along without an undercurrent of fear. But his rigor and criticality have been replaced by grandiosity and theatricality; figures feel frozen; compositions are stagy; structure devolves into carpetlike pattern. Gursky’s new pictures are filled with visual amphetamine, but now they’re laced with psychic chloroform. He’s such a serious artist that this amphetamine is singular enough to sometimes offset the deadening effects so that his pictures occasionally impart a poetics of numbness and stupefaction."
taken from here

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