It is interesting that this exhibition focuses only on the abstract paintings by Richter. The artist wanted it to be this way in order to manage the expectations of the audience and to provide deeper insight in his ‘alchemy’ of abstract picture making.
I think it is a very good show.
There are 40 large abstract works that can be examined side by side:
The exhibition starts with three large paintings form the late 80s. One of them is ‘Claudius’ of 1986. It has extreme color contrasts and is quite typical for this time.
It was Richter’s wish to start this show with the paintings of the mid 1980s. The abstract paintings before that time did not fit into his concept. He thinks they are to experimental, narrative and colorful.
Then you see the ‘Wald’ (‘Forest’) series of 2005 consisting of 12 canvasses: It is owned by two private collectors who promised to give it to the MoMA, NYC. (A very generous gesture.)
The title might seduce the viewer to seek trees and branches in these abstract paintings, but that is nonsense.
Maybe you can see the color mood of (Richter’s) photos of a forest close to his home.
Richter told Ulrich Wilmes in an interview: ‘Both kinds of paintings, meaning the non-representational and the representational paintings, have the same model: reality.’
I liked best the ‘Cage’ paintings: He called them like that as he was exclusively listening to the complete piano music composed by John Cage and performed by Steffen Schleiermacher during the work on this series.
Richter says: ‘Paintings always represent something that they are not.’ And: ‘Non-representational painting, however, is difficult to describe; I think it is quite similar to music, whose enormous effect bears no relation to any possible verbal description.’
This exhibition has been first shown at the Ludwig Museum in Richter’s hometown Cologne, Germany.
If you want to get a general idea about the work of Gerhard Richter, this is not the right show for you. Go to see the ‘Gerhard Richter from Private Collections’ show.
But I think it is an excellent opportunity to study his abstract painting in depth – don’t miss it!
Gerhard Richter – Abstract Paintings, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, from 27th Feb – 17th May 2009
(Quotes by Gerhard Richter taken from an interview with Ulrich Wilmes 2009.)