Sometimes the essence of a societal moment is well captured by an individual artist. Such is the case for German photographer Andreas Gursky, whose work—displayed this spring in his first retrospective (1984-2000) at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—captures much of the contemporary essence of globalization. Whereas the forms of modernity seem to be imposed forcibly on the world in the work of the pioneers of modernism, they return to us in Gursky’s photographs from a world already fully modernized. We experience modernity not only as viewers of these images, but also through identification with our surrogates—the mostly anonymous human subjects—who are depicted.
Gursky’s photographs are high-tech p...
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