Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just Seen and Dashed Off: Gerhard Richter – Bilder einer Epoche

The Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg, Germany, currently has a Gerhard Richter exhibition on view entitled Images of an Era. The show singles out Richter's work based on clippings from German newspapers and magazines from the early to mid-1960s as well as a 1988 series centered around the mysterious suicides of several members of the Baader-Meinhof gang while imprisoned. Richter reveals himself as a detached chronicler of Germany's seedier side of murder, prostitution, betrayal, and distrust of institutional truthfulness. But his larger themes are memory and loss, including loss of innocence.

Already in the earliest work from 1962, Faltbarer Trockner (Folding Dryer), Richter's signature Verwischung (blurring) is in place, but curiously it is only applied to the image of a housewife and her clothes dryer, not the rest of the clipping which also contains writing, advertising this immensely practical contraption. The same difference in treatment holds true for all of the works that contain both visual and verbal information, and thus Richter points to the precariousness of images as containers of information. Instead, the sensationalism yet banality of his subjects (household objects, great dames of Germany's underworld, con-men, victims of violence) is contrasted with the beauty of painting, relegating art into a different sphere, or equally validly, calling attention to the artifice of it all.

A display case of magazines, the kind of source material Richter used, proves illuminating. There they are: grey-scale images, often grainy, slightly blurred, or very small, which through Richter's working method of projection would lose even more resolution. In several works from the mid-1960s Richter's painting process becomes even more clear. In these the artist deliberately excluded the surface of individual areas from wiping after finishing the composition—un-finishing his paintings as it has been called. Here, through a break in coherence, illusion opens to abstracted solidity and pictorial depth.

Monday, February 14, 2011

art current: why write about art?

This column addresses some issues revolving around art criticism and art appreciation in general.