Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gerhard Richter




Cork, Ireland - Gerhard Richter is the most internationally recognized German artist today, with his work spanning nearly fifty years. Gerhard Richter: Survey is a retrospective exhibition presented by ifa, the German Institute of Cultural Relations, continuing its series of exhibitions dedicated to individual contemporary artists, which began in 1989 with the artist Joseph Beuys. In this case ifa invited the artist to actively participate in the selection process. The resulting collection of twenty-seven works give an insight into all the phases of Richter's creative work .

The title is taken from a work by Richter from 1998 in which he made a chart listing important artists, poets, philosophers, musicians and architects by date, without any evaluation or commentary. This process of noting the individual figure, or in this case, artwork, seeing it as a part of a historical sequence, is well suited to the current exhibition, which includes work exemplifying many of the motifs and ideas addressed by Richter in his work.

The fundamental theme of Gerhard Richter’s artistic practice – underlying the various motifs, stylistic approaches and art historical references – is and remains the art of painting itself. Richter is credited with reviving painting as a medium during a period many artists preferred to work in performance and ready-made media. He saw the need to separate art from art history, and strove for new ways of painting, focusing on the image rather than the reference and the visual rather than the statement.

As a contrast to painting, Gerhard Richter uses its modern counterpart in the depiction of reality, photography. It was the year 1962 that he first took a photograph as the starting point for the act of painting. Since then, he has systematically collected photographs as patterns or 'first layers' for his paintings. Thus emerged an archive of private and public photos from 1945 up to today, consisting of newspaper photos, snapshots by amateurs, as well as his own photographs – all of which were exhibited for the first time in 1972 under the title 'Atlas'. From this storehouse of photographs, Gerhard Richter chooses his motifs, which he then enlarges or perhaps uses only a detail from.

Through the precise reproduction of the original with all its lack of sharp definition, the picture points to the fact that it comes from the realm of photography, and to its origins in the banal world of pictures in mass media or amateur photography. The motive of the painting remains vague, as Richter reduces to tones of gray, in his translation of photography into painting. Thus he removes painting from the object, which, at the end of the 60s in the so-called 'Grey Pictures', completely disappears in the colour grey – for Richter, this is the colour of indifference, of nothing. The artist later returns to colour and finds his way to a complex method of painting in layers, producing the abstract paintings of the 1980s.

A catalogue of the exhibition is available. An Exhibition of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), Stuttgart, Germany Visit Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, Ireland - Website www.glucksman.org

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