Large photographs intended to compete with paintings on the walls of galleries and museums began to become a norm in the 1980s. One of the challenges that faced the artists who made them was the need to marshal photography's abundant bits and pieces of descriptive detail into images that could command attention when viewed from a distance. Gursky conquered that challenge with bold geometric patterns that disclose a wealth of complexity as the viewer approaches. Occasionally he achieves the pattern with the help of digital techniques; in Rhine II industrial buildings have been eliminated from the background. This romantic hymn to the grandeur of the Rhine River emulates the haunting simplicity of abstract paintings by Barnett Newman and others, but the image is instantly recognizable as a landscape. And the mesmerizing silver–gray fabric that represents the waves on the water is a swath of unmistakably photographic fact.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 169.