holzfallen: notes for an entry on Gerhard Richter

holzfallen ([info]holzfallen) wrote,
@ 2006-12-26 12:15:00

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notes for an entry on Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter: Eight Gray
Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
Gerhard Richter's Eight Gray: Between Vorschein and Glanz
by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh

"One cannot say in general whether somebody who excises all expression is not a mouthpiece of reification. He may also be a spokesman for a genuine, non-linguistic, expressionless expression, a kind of crying without tears." - Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1969 -- quoted in Gerhard Richter: Eight Gray.

Eight Gray is a work comprised of eight large panels of smooth, reflective grey glass. Buchloch comments that these work deal with a number of concerns addressed individually by minimalist painters and sculptors: the relationship of painting and sculpture to architecture, the questions of transparency and transluceny, the question of the real and the reflected. Richter's works, however, address all of these concerns at once. It's an interesting essay and although I don't want to post it in its entirety, I would like to cite a short passage because it neatly phrases a number of interesting questions about art generally as well as Richter's work specifically:

"The fourth opposition in Richter's Eight Gray is the improbable synthesis of void and transcendence. When does the process of voiding and erasure in painting give access to a higher trascendental experience? And when does it lead to mere boredom or even atrophy of the senses? Or, by contrast, when does entropic experience turn into a radical aesthetic and when does it simply reiterate the internalized melancholia of a closed system of cultural administration?"

These are actually quite interesting questions for contemporary art, and I think that leaving some of the mirror-specific questions aside, these apply to Richter's painting as well as his works in glass. His portraits, which come tantalizingly close to straightforward representations of the subjects, tend to have a similarly emotionally cool tone at first glance, and yet I find I class his work together in my mind with that of Lucian Freud (a comparison that seems pretty obvious to people) but also Egon Schiele (much less so), and I really have trouble explaining why. His portraits are erased in an intriguiging way, by being blurred, a technique that references cameras and goes back again to reproducilibity and thus cultural administration, or the business and work of determining what art is, who makes it, and what it's for. It can also be seen as addressing the question of the viewer's senses and what role they play -- in my personal experience, what I consider to be the native human pattern-finding impulse, related to the storytelling impulse, comes out in full force in response to this blurring, wanting to fill in the details of faces and lives. Is it just that Richter, Freud, and Schiele all spark these impulses?

There are his works in glass, mirror, and resin. Then there are the portraits. But his work is very broad, or rather the range of subjects that come under his keen scrutiny is broad. However, it's 5am and my eyes are tired, so I'll have to come back to this.

I apologize for the poor quality of these scans -- art books can be a bit unwieldy at times.

Barbelith folks -- I wanted to use this as the basis for starting a thread on Richter (note to self -- check to see if we have one already) but don't know how to make a little more tightly focussed. Any suggestions? I don't want to leave out his abstracts as they're one of the most important and beautiful types of work he does, but I think they lose a little by being lumped in with the other stuff.

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2006-12-27 03:30 pm UTC (link) Track this
I believe there is one of these "Eight Gray" panels at Dia:Beacon in Beacon New York, or at least a sibling work. Dia:Beacon is a great place to go and if you haven't been we should make it a point to visit next time you're in New York.

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2006-12-27 04:49 pm UTC (link) Track this
I'd love to go, maybe this summer. I bet it's one of his Spiegel (mirror) pieces.

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2006-12-27 03:35 pm UTC (link) Track this
It is entirely possible that I started a thread on Barbelith about Richter back in 2000 or 2001 when the retrospective was here at MoMA. That show for better or worse turned me against Richter and foregrounded what seemed hucksterish or opportunistic about his art. I think I wrote briefly about it on coldbacon's board, too.

That being said, I'm probably totally ashamed of anything I've ever written in quote-unquote "the past" so there you go. I wouldn't mind discussing particular works but I'm unwilling or more to the point unable to go digging through my books of Marxian aesthetic theory to engage you on that level.

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2006-12-27 04:48 pm UTC (link) Track this
Dude, most of my books are in cardboard boxes in the living room. You know I don't know anything about art and everything I write is either my opinion, or my opinion about somebody else's opinion, right? I don't know enough about art theory to talk about it, and I'm more interested in people's (my people's) opinions anyhow.

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