In 2012, D.O.A.XL was exhibited for the first time at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac alongside several other works from the D.O.A.XL series. The exhibition took its name from the 1980s French hit Voyage, Voyage by pop artist Desireless – a nod to Richter’s penchant for using pop culture and mass media references. These references are littered throughout D.O.A.XL and include, among others, Iron Man’s red glove from the Marvel universe and the glow-eyed villains from cult videogame World of Warcraft.
When Richter began painting in the early 1990s, first as a student of Werner Büttner at the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts and later as the studio assistant of Albert Oehlen, he developed a style marked by horror vacui with canvases bursting with psychedelic colours and forms. His fearless approach to colour is indebted to his artistic predecessors: expressionist painter Edvard Munch and symbolist pioneer James Ensor. In 2002, Richter dramatically abandoned his wildly abstracted compositions and began making a new kind of history painting featuring images of social struggle that capture the paranoia surrounding contemporary events rather than a specific historic moment. Despite his stylistic change, Richter’s sustained engagement with the fundamental principles of paint provides a continual narrative thread throughout his oeuvre.
Using the visual language of graffiti art which is evidenced in the drips, hazy outlines and harsh lines of D.O.A.XL, Richter experiments with and pushes the limits of his media. Having been involved in the squatter scene of 1980s Hamburg, Richter’s engagement with art began by designing record sleeves for radical German punk bands and much of his work reflects elements of the street art he witnessed during this time. His figurative paintings, which exclusively feature groups and never individuals, are inspired by Socialist Realism in this respect which the artist perceived to emphasise the sociability of humans. The artist explains that his figurative paintings responded to “a need to get closer to a reality that I experience as unsavoury. My need to express myself as a social entity was so strong that I wanted to convey it to others” (Daniel Richter cited in: David Hughes, ‘Daniel Richter and the Problem of Political Painting Today’, New German Critique, No. 108, Fall 2009, p. 154). Richter’s hauntingly prophetic apocalyptic visions speak to contemporary anxieties surrounding technology, information and war that bond society together and invite the viewer to join in the communal paranoia.
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