This work will be included in volume 3 of the official Catalogue Raisonné of Gerhard Richter, edited by the Gerhard Richter Archive Dresden, to be published in spring 2013, as no. 638-2.
Of all Gerhard Richter's painterly styles, which range from photo-realist representation to monochromatic minimalism, the artist finds his abstract paintings to be his most authentic renderings of reality. Executed in 1987, the intimately-sized Abstraktes Bild juxtaposes seamless brushwork with emphatic gesture to reveal the materiality of paint on canvas. His gestural slash marks interrupt the smooth illusionistic background and emphasize the surface tactility, so as to 'erase the pictorial object's function as an illustration of reality and to replace it with the picture's own reality' (G. Richter, quoted in J. Nestegard, Gerhard Richter: Det Umuliges Kunst, Malerier 1964-1998, exh. cat., Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 1999, p. 45).
Richter begins by loading the squeegee with beige and white paint and pulling it across the canvas. The artist dots the squeegee with notes of yellow, green and pink that emerge in faint horizontal striations. Halfway through, Richter flips the squeegee, creating an abrupt vertical zip and inverting the tonal orientation. According to the artist, 'This first, smooth, soft-edged paint surface is like a finished picture; but after a while I decide that I understand it or have seen enough of it, and in the next stage of painting I partly destroy it, partly add to it; and so it goes on at intervals, till there is nothing more to do and the picture is finished' (G. Richter, quoted in H.U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practise of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 112). Engaging in this process, Richter makes divergent gestural marks with a dark sliver along the left side or an emphatic pale swipe through the middle. Like blips of immediacy, these gestural streaks reference a tangible reality that traditional representational styles are unable to capture. According to the artist, abstract paintings such as these 'access to the unvisualisable, the incomprehensible' (Ibid., p. 100).
Richter's painted expressions of invisible and veiled realities come from this process of revealing while concealing. Here, gesture, and its expressive mark on the canvas, is no longer a gauge for the artist's emotive involvement, while colour no longer merely exhibits chromatic relationships; instead, they signify 'from now on and again the simulacrum of spiritual space' (B. Buchloh, 'Richter's Facture Between the Synecdoche and the Spectacle,' Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 1985, p. 9). Unlike his many polychrome abstracts, Richter paints Abstraktes Bild with delicate colours and imbues it with a rare contemplative tone that recalls his vanitas still lifes of the late 1960s.