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Art review: Andreas Gursky at Gagosian Gallery

April 2, 2010 |  7:30 pm
400.GURSK-2010-Ocean-I-(e  The grandiose differs from the grand in its need to make a spectacular impression. Size matters, and looking important trumps all. The German photographer Andreas Gursky has been making grandiose art for years. Some of his enormous, impossibly precise color prints verge into more distinguished territory (that indelible panorama of a 99-cent store, certainly) but the grandiose is his rightful domain.

 Gursky's most recent work inaugurates the newly expanded Gagosian Gallery with predictable pomposity. Each of the five huge (up to 13 feet per side) photographs in the "Ocean" series (2010) is predominantly deep, dark blue, edged with land masses –small islands, ice-encrusted capes, ridged shorelines. The pictures are composites made from multiple satellite images, manipulated so that scale is skewed and geographic location becomes abstracted. Crystalline detail coexists with generalized expanse. Detachment is common to Gursky's work, but even more extreme in these prints, which feel entirely divested of emotional heft. In spite of their stunning size and the amazing technical engineering that produced them, they feel bland.

400.Beelitz Nine additional photographs, from 1989 to 2008, of the hive-like Chicago Board of Trade, the glitzy staging of a Madonna concert, the swooping curves of a Bahrain race track and more, round out the show. None of the earlier work feels quite as bloated as the "Ocean" pictures. "Beelitz" (2007) is particularly intriguing – a perspectively  tweaked aerial shot of an asparagus field, the dark stripes of its plastic-covered rows reading from afar as pure minimalist abstraction.

–Leah Ollman

Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9400, through May 1. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.gagosian.com

Images: Ocean I (2010), top, and Beelitz (2007). Courtesy of the Gagosian Gallery.
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