While a distinctive sense of flatness distinguishes the present composition, the artist’s celebrated employment of the squeegee is unmistakeable in Cage Grid (Complete Set), where Richter manipulated the instrument with astonishing mastery upon the surface of the original canvas. Thus in this work Richter’s audience witnesses the artist’s near total eclipse of the brush in a complete transformation and contradiction of traditional pictorial expression. Curator Dieter Schwarz boldly claims, “The term ‘abstract painting’ here no longer denotes a chapter in the history of art… Richter’s abstraction has no organic dimension: it does not mark the culmination of a chronological development. Rather, it looks back to the starting point of painting, to the medium’s preconditions and foundations, adopting a position predicated on a lack of precedence” (Dieter Schwarz cited in: Exh. Cat., Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Gerhard Richter: Picture/Series, 2014, p. 28). In the present work Richter has achieved such ingenious abstraction through the use of the squeegee as unrivalled artistic device, which in turn operates as a magnified eraser, smearing pre-applied pigment in varying thicknesses across the surface of the composition in an action that resembles the process of silkscreen. Significantly, the edge of Richter’s squeegee was transparent Plexiglas, permitting the artist to observe both sides of the blade as he swiftly moved it across the surface of the original canvas. As such, Cage 6 and its incredibly innovative reproduction in Cage Grid (Complete Set) spectacularly illuminate the German master’s true command of technique and his highly unique process of image-making.
The title of the present work prominently suggests that the impact of Cage on Richter is extraordinary, and the link between their respective work momentous. Richter himself poignantly asserted of the prolific composer, “He gave me legitimisation” (Gerhard Richter cited in: Robert Storr, Gerhard Richter: The Cage Paintings, London 2009, p. 55). In the eighties and early nineties, Richter attended a number of concerts in Cologne where Cage performed, however the interaction between the two never crossed the threshold of a stage. Yet both luminaries were concerned with the notions of chance, absence and the obsolete in their work. Indeed, Richter’s investigation into abstraction, colour and the movement of pigment directly mirrored Cage’s avant-garde experiments in sound, silence and the flow of tonal registers. Both were masterful innovators in their respective fields. Robert Storr asserts of Cage, “No one else had touched so many creative people, of so many varieties and so many generations in so many places. Globally, Cage personified the post-war pollination of the arts; at once mentor and muse, he was fusion incarnate” (Ibid., p. 51). While the composer died in 1992, Richter returned to his classical repertoire while completing the present cycle of abstract works, which can be seen as a transformative codification and interpretation of Cage’s scores in their exquisite chromatic shifts, dragged colours and slathering of thick pigments. The very idea of Richter’s abstraction also related to Cage’s own philosophy in his avowal, “I don’t want to mean anything. I want to be” (John Cage cited in: Ibid., p. 70). In a similar fashion, Richter’s illustrious works persist, powerfully leaving viewers to their own reading of the brilliant schematics of sweeping pigment. In the monumental composition Cage Grid (Complete Set), Richter’s comprehensive synthesis of colour, space, chance and the sublime is prodigiously exhibited, echoing Cage’s remarkable statement: “I have nothing to say and I am saying it” (John Cage cited in: Ibid., p. 56).
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