Gerhard Richter, Birkenau, 2014

Art is the highest form of hope.

Gerhard Richter

An exhibition that I was really looking forward to seeing in person is Gerhard Richter: Painting After All currently on view at the Met Breuer in New York. I wanted to see Gerhard Richter at the Met Breuer because Richter remains one of the most important visual contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and also, the Met is scheduled to vacate the iconic Marcel Breuer building later this year, which served as the home for the Whitney Museum for more than 40 years. Of course, with the current COVID-19 situation, visiting New York and seeing this show probably won’t happen, but that’s ok! 

The Met Breuer in New York
The Met Breuer in New York

Although we can’t go to New York, we have the next best thing. Luckily, the Met Breuer has a really great website. The content for the Richter exhibition is very interactive and includes an abundance of images, a short video and “The Primer”, a really cool interactive digital “feature” highlighting Met Breuer exhibitions. Also, the recently released exhibition catalog is definitely on our wishlist.

German-born Gerhard Richter has been making art for more than 60 years. He’s perhaps most notable for not working in one specific medium, or one specific subject matter, and often doing this within just one year, which is what makes him so incredibly fascinating.

Gerhard Richter, Uncle Rudy, 2000
Gerhard Richter, Uncle Rudy, 2000

Regarding his paintings, they can range from figurative works based on photographs, to his most well-known “squeegee” paintings. Large abstractions layered with pigments and densely layered. This technique is beautifully demonstrated in the 2012 documentary, Gerard Richter Painting, which is a fabulously made film to enjoy as you self-isolate at home.

Cage painting on view at Gerhard Richter at the Met Breuer
Gerhard Richter, Cage (4), 2006 via The Met Breuer

One example of these “squeegee” paintings is Cage (4) from 2006. A tribute to composer John Cage, this mural-sized painting (the scale references political murals and Hollywood film screens), immerses the viewer in a frenetic composition of color, streaks of pigment and the use of the “squeegee” imparts the mesmerizing surface texture synonymous with this body of work. 

Gerhard  Richter, Atlas

If you want a glimpse into Richter’s process, his boundless sense of curiosity, and his appetite for images, then check out Atlas. This book is essentially Richter’s version of a “scrapbook” and includes over 800 images, which Richter began collecting and assembling in the 1960s.

Everything from family photos, newspaper cuttings, sketches, paint samples, and photographs were taken by Richter himself, They are painstakingly but beautifully assembled in this magnificent book, sometimes referred to as the “Atlas pictures”. One of the most well-known images from Atlas is “Kerze (Candle)”, which served as the cover art for Sonic Youth’s 1988 album, Daydream Nation.

As we continue to practice social-distancing and self-isolating, diving into the complex and fascinating world of Gerard Richter is the perfect distraction while we’re spending so much time at home. From the Met Breuer exhibition to the Richter documentary to the Atlas pictures, there’s a lot of wonderful content to discover. 

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