|Gerhard Richter, Abstrakt Bild (1980)|
His output at first glance appears a bit schizophrenic - much of it is polarized between, on the one hand, the hyper-realism of paintings that pretend to be photos and on the other "random" abstractions created by purely mechanical means such as dragging a giant squeegee through the paint. The constant? the work deceptively appears to circumvent the hand of the artist. But the reality is quite different and at once more comforting and complex: it has everything to do with Richter's "eye" (his vision for painting) and the artist, of course, is always and intensely present.
Richter's paradoxical practice, always in a sense about the nature of painting now, has succeeded in proving painting's ongoing relevance even as choruses of art world authorities continue to proclaim its death.
|Gerhard Richter, Lesende (Reader), 1994|
|Gerhard Richter, one of the new poured works|
|Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting|
"Abstract pictures do indeed show something, they just show things that don’t exist. But they still follow the same requirements as figurative works: they need a setup, structure. You need to be able to look at it and say, “It’s almost something.” But it’s actually representing nothing. It pulls feelings out of you, even as it’s showing you a scene that technically isn’t there." -Gerhard Richter
|Richter, spry at 82, in front of one of his new "Strips" works.|
It's all a glorious, dizzying conundrum. I see abstract painting, if not all painting as "a secular pilgrimage toward universality," as the WSJ article puts it: "Most of the Ab-Exers shared an impulse to bring the hope of the world into their art." Not Richter. Richter wanted to close the gap between Duchamp and painting, to make objects out of signs without definite referents, confronting us with the inexplicable beauty of our bewildering and often horrific modern lives.
|September, Gerhard Richter|
The processes Richter uses to make his paintings are at times themselves a metaphor for human vulnerability, striving, and patient questioning.
All of Richter's diverse works spring from the same artistic project, namely his 'belief in painting's necessity born of radical doubt in its potential .... a credere quia absurdam' (from St. Aquaina's phrase 'I believe because it is absurd.') Despite his refusal of sentimentality in any form, for Richter art and beauty are humanity's saving graces in the face of often hard-to-bear reality.
|Gerhard Richter, Sphere (note the crouching figure reflected in the steel ball)|
As he has said many times, if our better selves are to survive, "we need beauty in all its variations."* I'm down with that.
|Gerhard Richter, Two Fiats|
|Gerhard Richter, Kerze (Candle), 1982|
(*A. Borchdardt-Hume, Gerhard Richter Panorama, p. 174)