- Gerhard Richter
signed, dated 1992 and numbered 769-2 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica
Seomi Gallery, Seoul
Private Collection, London
Sotheby's, New York, May 10, 2005, Lot 68
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Rome, Associazione per l'Arte Contemporanea, Montagne: Gerhard Richter, Zerynthia, October - December 1992, n.p., illustrated in color
Santa Monica, Mark Moore Gallery, Gerhard Richter, July - August 1995
Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst - und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter, vol. II, 1993, p. 63, illustrated
Angelika Thill, et. al., Gerhard Richter: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, cat. no. 769-2, illustrated in color
Within the passionately attended group of paintings that comprise Abstraction-Figuration: A Private Collection, Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild,(769-2) 1992, while characterized by the artist's signature swiping and blurred style of over-painted and obliterated layers, is fine-tuned to the point of impossible transcendence. Simultaneously suggestive and provocative, this picture harnesses the artist's inimitable urge to paint. The expansive canvas acts as an abstract force field created by a grid of color that possesses a tangible gravitational pull, drawing the viewer into an aesthetic kaleidoscopic of tactile surface and a thrall of shimmering oils. The furtive flamboyance of this painting celebrates the artist as "a master, the best alive, who doubts the present value and future possibility of mastery in painting. In his art, he holds beauty hostage to skeptical intelligence from which the viewer's patience partially, but never fully, ransoms it." (Peter Schjeldahl, "In the Mood," New Yorker, December 5, 2005, p. 104).
Contrary to the perceived impulsiveness conveyed by the gestural quality of their surfaces and the historical weight of Abstract Expressionism, Richter's Abstract Paintings, such as the present work are derived from a systematic enterprise and are more in tune with the techniques of the Old Masters than to those of contemporary artists. First, Richter begins by placing a number of primed white canvases around the walls of his studio, eventually working on them simultaneously. Pigment is applied only to be subsequently altered by large strokes: tracks of color drawn out with a squeegee. The paintings continually evolve with every new application. Finally, Richter's paintings are finished only when he can do no more, when they exceed him, or they have something that he can no longer keep up with. Given their intricate specificity and open-endedness (Richter does not work in a premeditated manner preferring instead to formalize the composition as he concludes it), his canvases are never executed in one session. Each stroke is carefully considered before it is allowed to make an appearance that could seriously deter the overall desired effect.
Much has been written about Richter's singularly unique technical approach to painting. It is one whereby the properties of form and color powerfully commingle within the painterly process. During an intensive and creative process paint is applied with an arsenal of implements: paintbrushes, scrapers and spatulas layer by layer; already existing layers are overlaid or exposed by scraping. By means akin to an archeological effort, sheer beauty is excavated from the depths. The most radical tool employed by Richter is a crafted wood-and-Plexiglas squeegee, which is used to wipe and drag the paint. The effects change depending on where and how he applies pressure with the squeegee, and yet, regardless of how adept he has become at this, there is still an important element of chance. In the present work, the chance is reined in by the strong verticals and the grid-like surge of the composition. In turn, the viewer is afforded the opportunity to penetrate the canvases while being absorbed by their vast surface area, a referent to the large scale format of 18th and 19th century academic painting as well as the painterly innovations of Georges Seurat, in works such as Sous-Bois à Pontaubert, 1881-2.
This pulsating and ravishing Abstraktes Bild was deliberately made concurrently within a series of four canvases, so that Richter could move from one work to another, leaving each one often for extended periods of time. Upon returning, he felt empowered to objectively excise any aspect of the painting that borders on the figurative or emotional. As such, Richter works on several Abstract Paintings at once, ''At the beginning, I feel totally free, and it's fun, like being a child. The paintings can look good for a day or an hour. Over time, they change. In the end, you become like a chess player. It takes me longer than some people to recognize their quality, their situation -- to realize when they are finished. Finally, one day I enter the room and say, 'Checkmate.' Then sometimes I need a break, a quiet job, like a landscape. But I always need to paint abstracts again. I need that pleasure." (Gerhard Richter as quoted in Michael Kimmelman, "Gerhard Richter: An Artist Beyond Isms," The New York Times, January 27, 2002, n.p.).