Le Case D’Arte, Milan
Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above in 1989)
Christie’s, London, 15 February 2012, Lot 249 (consigned by the above)
Galerie Nathalie Seroussi, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Since the late 1960s, abstraction has formed a conceptual keystone through which Richter has radically explored the compositional and chromatic possibilities of the painted medium. During the mid-1970s, Richter embarked on a series of paintings based on photographs depicting thickly applied oil paint and smaller painted brushstrokes. Monumentally blown up and executed with photorealist veracity, these zoomed in details took on the appearance of Abstract Expressionist paintings. From this moment on Richter had found the logic through which the figurative could be made abstract; a transformation that when reversed validated a form of free-painting in which abstraction could be understood as figurative, and thus in many ways photographic. In the first half of the 1980s, Richter became increasingly prolific in his abstract paintings. Initially indulging in a myriad of free floating and delineated abstract shapes, these works would lay the foundation for the ensuing abstract paintings that would come to define the period post-1986, in which Richter began to layer accumulations of pigment and determine formal discord and resolution using the squeegee alone. The present work thus stands at an important turning point in the artist’s oeuvre. It is already here that we can fully detect a movement away from planned compositional elements and towards the element of chance as implicated by the rubber squeegee.
In its fervent celebration of colour, Untitled (19.3.86) is a revelation of boundless chromatic affect that is further compounded by the raw paper medium. Reflecting on Richter’s abstract practice, Benjamin Buchloh writes: “[I]f the ability of colour to generate this emotional, spiritual quality is presented and at the same time negated at all points, surely it's always cancelling itself out. With so many combinations, so many permutational relationships, there can’t be any harmonious chromatic order, or compositional either, because there are no ordered relations left either in the colour system or the spatial system” (Benjamin Buchloh, ‘An Interview with Gerhard Richter’ (1986) in: Benjamin Buchloh, Ed., Gerhard Richter: October Files, Massachusetts 2009, pp. 23-24). It is in this redefinition of compositional order that Richter evokes a mesmerising polyphony of colour, texture, and perspective. In Untitled (19.3.86) the phenomenological capacity of painting is presented as a dichotomy between the squeegee and the brush; a trajectory that would come to monumental fruition in his paintings on canvas of the following years.
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