44
44

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION

Gerhard Richter
UNTITLED (5.4.86)
Estimate
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,172,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
44

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION

Gerhard Richter
UNTITLED (5.4.86)
Estimate
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,172,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Gerhard Richter
B.1932
UNTITLED (5.4.86)
signed and dated 5.4.86
oil on paper
49 by 38 3/8 in. 124.5 by 97.5 cm.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1987

Exhibited

Amsterdam, Museum Overholland, Gerhard Richter: werken op papier 1983-1986, February - April 1987, p. 19, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Composing an exuberant thesis on the phenomenological capacities of the painted medium, Gerhard Richter’s Untitled (5.4.86) stands as one of the most resolute and enthralling works on paper within his iconic corpus of abstract paintings. Starting on the second day of April in 1986, over the course of eight consecutive days Richter completed a set of paintings that remain amongst his largest works on paper to date, each uniquely titled by the day of its composition. Taking a central place within this important series, the present work’s perfected synthesis of primary color balancing and dynamic gesture evidences the creative zenith and stylistic breakthrough that Richter achieved in this highly significant year. Retaining evidence of hand applied brush work in the unique cross motif at its center, Untitled (5.4.86) shows the final point of transition prior to Richter’s full submission to the rubber squeegee as the tool that would dominate his abstract paintings over the following decades. As an aesthetic linchpin that recalls the expressionistic vigor of his earliest painterly abstractions whilst looking towards the detached stability of the Abstrakte Bilder of the 1990s, in Untitled (5.4.86) Richter crafts his most profoundly duplicitous space within the genre; germane to both objective methodology and subjective expression. Within his wider body of work Richter’s abstract works on paper are markedly rare. Above all other mediums, however, they express his most radical instances of experimentation, stemming from his most investigative urges at times of heightened creativity. Uniquely celebrating the sense of freedom offered by the medium in the areas of raw paper, this unique painting gives unparalleled insight into the working process and aesthetic volition of the artist at the most crucial point of his abstract trajectory.

Richter’s enduringly iconic abstract works have formed a conceptual keystone of his oeuvre since the late 1960s. Polarized with the disquietingly naturalistic illusionism of the photo-realist paintings that he developed in tandem, it is in the abstract works that Richter enacts his most profound  examination of the painted medium; both its corporeal state as raw pigment appended to the page and its cerebral capacity to conjure the artifice of illusion. During the 1980s, Richter became increasingly prolific in his abstract practice, initially indulging in a myriad of free floating and delineated abstract shapes for the first half of decade. The year of 1986 signified a turning point however as the artist embarked upon an intense period of experimentation after which he relinquished planned compositional elements in favor of the indeterminate scrape of the rubber squeegee. Arguably there is no other place that this impassioned moment investigation is made more visible than in the eight outstanding works on paper created during the month of April and of which the present work is a definitive paragon. Harmoniously blending brush and squeegee with a sense of unparalleled dynamic veracity, Untitled (5.4.86) reveals the full breadth of the artist’s idiosyncratic painterly alchemy.

Here we see Richter playfully dissect the pictorial mechanics that historically underpinned the academic practice of image making as schematized in renaissance painting. The artist’s uniquely nuanced layering of color poses a nod to technique of aerial perspective, in which increasingly blue tones are used to allude to distance within the frame. Untitled (5.4.86) is underpinned by a deep recessive blue that is subsequently caressed by successive layers of acidic greens, luminous yellows and visceral reds. Cross-hatched and compounded through the interplay of squeegee and brush work, the vibrant swathes of luminous primaries are enlivened by their stark tonal contrasts and appear to leap from the page, exacerbating the illusion of structural depth. Through an impassioned yet subtly interlaced example of the gestural mark making that he would soon abandon, Richter demarcates picture frame with an oblique cross formation that also references the technical grid methodology used in the creation of linear perspective. Yet in its crudely hastened application and by drawing directly into the wet paint with a blunt brush edge, Richter simultaneously undermines the illusionism of constructed perspective and reifies the physical constitution of the medium. Constructing a hypnotic symphony that confuses our capacity to register stable depth, Richter also intermittently shatters his own illusion as the static tides dissipate and we are reminded of the material support of this cerebral vision through the rare exposure of the page. 

As a highly refined progression from the gestural bravado of Franz Kline and the expressive action painting of Jackson Pollock, here Richter introduces a crucial element of objective distance and submission to the law of chance in which the work retains a captivating sense of autonomy. It was through this gestural abandon that Richter would come to achieve what he termed “Photography by other means.” (Gerhard Richter cited in Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, eds., Gerhard Richter, TEXT: Writings, Interviews and Letters: 1961-2007, London, 2009, p. 73) Chasing the paradigm of the photographic record, in which aesthetic choices are filtered through the mechanical interpretation of an instance, in Untitled (5.4.86) Richter not only finds a new means of capturing the emotive essence of a particular moment of creation, but pays reverence to the enduring power of painting; both as an imaginative space, a material substance and a physical process.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York