Similarly attracted to monochrome but instead to the objectivity and inconspicuousness of grey, Richter achieves a wondrous and hypnotic neutrality that is various at any one moment. Richter famously remarked, ‘Grey. It makes no statement whatever; it evokes neither feelings nor associations: it is really neither visible, in a positively illusionistic way…It has the capacity that no other colour has, to make ‘nothing’ visible.’ (Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 91). For Richter, grey paralleled photography, a medium that remains the most important influence in his representational enquiry into the core natures of perception and cognition. Exploring profound notions of absence, Grau certainly creates a cohesive and mesmerising reality of its own. Richter continues, 'I want [my grey monochromes] to be seen as narratives - even if they are narratives of nothingness. Nothing is something. You might say they are like photographs of nothing' (Gerhard Richter cited in: Michael Kimmelman, 'Gerhard Richter: An Artist Beyond Isms', The New York Times, 27 January 2002, online).
Such an artistic disposition intriguingly recalls Klein’s preceding manifesto ‘The Monochrome Adventure’ from 1954: ‘Painting is alchemical, and beyond time. It represents nothing” (Yves Klein, ‘The Monochrome Adventure’ in: Exh. Cat., Houston, Institute for the Arts, Rice Museum, Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, Houston 1982, p. 46). The present work is thus deeply entrenched in the history of Modernism speaking profoundly to the monochromatic achievements of Yves Klein. Yet testament to the unrivalled critical force of Richter’s grand oeuvre, the Grey Paintings also speak intimately to Richter’s mastery of photography, to his longstanding celebration of the nihilism and visual boldness that characterises one of the most celebrated oeuvres of the contemporary period.
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