Many of the recent works on show at the Hayward are fictionalised tableaux, a new direction certainly, but not as immediately likeable as his early work. I confess I struggled to get the point of SH I, in which a superhero (Iron Man) and his love interest are seen embracing on a tropical beach. But Gursky is also still photographing scenes of the technological sublime, such as he most recent photograph in the show is also a landscape image, Utah (2017), and it certainly impressed The Guardian's critic, Laura Cumming:
'The show’s masterpiece is unlike almost anything Gursky has made before. It is a new work, a single shot of some prefab houses skimmed on a mobile phone while driving through Utah. The photograph registers the speed of the car racing through the landscape – and modern life – in all its random glitches and blurs. At the same time, the houses look perilously ephemeral against the ancient mountains behind them. This fragile little thing, a spontaneous and disposable shot, is enlarged to the size of a cinema screen – a monumental homage to the mobile phone and the outsize role it plays in depicting our times'Leaving the exhibition I found myself thinking how much I still love Gursky's earliest photographs. They reminded me of my most recent trip to The Photographers Gallery, to see 'Wim Wenders' Polaroids', although of course Gursky's views of West Germany are on a much larger scale. Anglers, Mülheim (1989), for example, is an impressive take on our modern landscape, a place neither urban or rural. Greg Hilty described it well in his essay for the catalogue of another 1990s exhibition, Tate Liverpool's 'Andreas Gursky: Images' (1995).
'Two groups of fishermen sit on the banks of a quiet river, some distance apart, in uneasy relation to each other and to their pseudo-idyllic surroundings. In the distance we glimpse a motorway bridge, leading into the space behind the trees in front of which the anglers sit. We know we're on the fringes of a town, we can hear the cars in the distance, smell the pollution of the river, almost pick out litter in the woods. The site, like those in other works from the period, is on the margins in both social and pictorial terms. What meaning the picture holds derives not from any incident portrayed, but from the relation of what we see to what we cannot see, but understand to be there.'