- Gerhard Richter
- 1025 Farben
- signed, dated 1974 and numbered 357-2 on the reverse
- lacquer on canvas
- 47 1/8 x 48 5/8 in. 119.7 x 123.5 in.
Acquired from the above in 1976
The cool façade of Gerhard Richter's 1025 Farben, 1974, belies an intriguing approach to artistic creation. In his series of Color Charts, Richter orchestrated process-based random arrangements of color that offer the viewer an elaborate interplay between Conceptual 'model' and arbitrary 'choice'. There is no rhyme or reason to the arrangement or formation of the color squares. Indeed, when he began to make these paintings, Richter had his friend Blinky Palermo randomly call out colors, which Richter then adopted for his work. Chance thus plays its role in their creation, even though the surfaces of the Color Charts seem so deliberate and systematic. The large scale and perfect symmetry of 1025 Farben, together with the clinical ordering of each swatch of paint within a dazzling white grid, completely mesmerize the viewer. The optical illusion Richter creates, between planes of depth within the grid, is wonderful.
In the mid 1960's Richter's career flourished with activity. During this period he made a number of crucial painterly, technical and theoretical shifts that conclude with his production of the Farbfelden (Color Charts). The paradigm of the 'photopainting', as an object and technique, had been resolved, and glorious examples began to emerge, executed in his strict palette of black and white with scintillating gradations of gray in between, providing mass, shape and form in the most exquisite of illusory fashions. Color had been deliberately eschewed as he felt it interfered with his dynamic between Image and Index: the absence of color was necessary to focus the eye on his bewilderingly formal apparitions. Moreover, during the 1960s, most photography was still made using black-and-white film, so Richter's minimal palette remained faithful to his desire to make photographs out of paint.
Richter's first series of Color Charts painted in 1966 had appropriated the ready-made aspect of industrial paint charts in a Pop Art refutation of the lofty ideals of abstract color-theorists. They were intended, Richter explained, as "an assault on the falsity and religiosity of the way people glorified abstraction, with such phony reverence. Devotional art – all those Church handicrafts." (Hans-Ulrich Obrist, ed., G. Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London, 1995, p. 41) Richter's second series of Color Charts was begun in 1971 and consisted only of five paintings. Seemingly in response to the Minimal tendencies of much of the art of this period, Richter abandoned the original paint chart pretext and created a mechanically progressive series of grids where the color of each square was chosen according to a law of random permutations. The range of the colors he employed was determined by a mathematical system for mixing the primary colors in graduated amounts. Each color was then randomly ordered to create the resultant composition and form of the painting. The present work is from the final series of Color Charts that occupied Richter throughout 1973 and 1974. In this series Richter added mixes of a light grey, a dark gray and later, a green. The addition of these colors to the mathematically structured mix generates a far wider range of color. In many of these works Richter abandoned the white grid between the swatches of color, however, the present work retains the grid structure.
Richter's interest in arrangements of color, whether random or mathematical, can be compared to Ellsworth Kelly's Spectrum series. In these series, both artists were concerned with color as form, abandoning the traditional use of color as representational. Damien Hirst would later explore similar ideas with his colorful and orderly Spot paintings. In 1025 Farben, 1974, each color is entirely liberated and simplified to its absolute essence. The colors buzz with energy and are no longer dependent on form but become form. Richter has therefore created an artificial system that emphasizes random application and chance, reflecting the most beautiful accidents of nature. Painting has thus been refined and pared down to its simplest and yet most evocative form.