7 February – 8 April 2018
White Cube Bermondsey
White Cube presented the large-scale photograph Rückblick (2015) by Andreas Gursky in 9 x 9 x 9 at Bermondsey, organised to coincide with the artist’s major exhibition at Hayward Gallery, London.
In Rückblick (the title of which translates as ‘review’), Gursky constructs a fictional scene in which Angela Merkel and the three previous Chancellors of the Federal Republic of Germany sit in front of the wall-sized painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51) by Barnett Newman. Seen from behind seated on leather chairs, these four isolated heads (all of whom were still alive at the time the work was made) seem reduced to tiny protagonists, dwarfed by the painting’s expansive plane of red, broken only by Newman’s signature vertical lines or ‘zips’, and the plume of white smoke that emerges from a cigarette out of view.
One of Newman’s largest works and part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Vir Heroicus Sublimis is a painterly investigation of the sublime. Equally large in scale and referencing the size and presence of classical landscape and history painting, Gursky’s Rückblick is based on a black and white newspaper photograph from 28 May 2009, taken during talks to save the German car company Opel between Angela Merkel, German politicians and members of the US Government. Encapsulating several of the artist’s key themes, including the effects of capitalism and globalisation, Rückblick uses narrative construct, photographic scale and digital manipulation to expose and undermine our faith in the ‘truth’ of a visual image.
Andreas Gursky, Rückblick, 2015, © Andreas Gursky / DACS, 2018, Courtesy White Cube