Martin Hentschel, Andreas Gursky: Werke/Works 80-08 (Ostfildern, 2008), pp. 112-3
Andreas Gursky’s arresting panorama Gardasee represents a pivotal moment in the artist’s career marking the photographer’s transition from his straight landscape photography made with a large-format camera to the large-scale, digitally-altered imagery of his mature oeuvre. A precursor to Gursky’s iconic Rhine I and II (1996 and 1999), Los Angeles (1998), and James Bond Island (2007), Gardasee is an important early example in the artist’s dramatic landscape pantheon.
While the negatives for this image were made in 1986, when Gursky made several three-frame city views, it was not until 1993, after he had begun to alter his pictures in the computer, that the present sweeping panoramic view was realized (see Peter Galassi, Andreas Gursky, The Museum of Modern Art, 2001, pp. 25, 37, and 43 for further discussion). Since the dawn of photography in the 19th century, artists have used material and darkroom techniques to manipulate their images. Modern digital technology, however, allows Gursky not only to seamlessly join negatives, as in the case of Gardasee, but also to combine multiple perspectives and to add (or eliminate) details that otherwise would be impossible to capture in one frame.
Bordering Lombardy, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige, Lake Garda is a popular holiday destination in northern Italy. Its name derives from the Gothic warda or ‘observing.’ Gursky’s detailed panorama indeed benefits from and calls for careful observation. It at first seems almost a minimalist composition, with the central horizon bisecting the composition, and with the mountains symmetrically positioned on each side of the picture. A closer look, however, reveals an incredible depth of field with innumerable windsurfers dotting the horizon, the whole rendered in impossibly crystalline detail. This interplay of minimalist structure on the macro level and micro attention to detail would become a key compositional tool for Gursky, and Gardasee offers prescient insight into this pivotal period for the artist.
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