• Sale 1106

    Post-War and Contemporary Art (Evening Auction)

    13 February 2013, London, King Street

  • Lot 28

    Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)

    Abstraktes Bild

    Price Realised  

    Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
    Abstraktes Bild
    signed, numbered and dated '889-14 Richter 2004' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    88 5/8 x 78¾in. (225 x 200cm.)
    Painted in 2004


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    This work will be included in the forthcoming volume 4 of the official catalogue raisonné of Gerhard Richter, edited by the Gerhard Richter Archive Dresden, as no. 889-14.



    'Every time we describe an event, add up a column of figures or take a photograph of a tree, we create a model; without models we would know nothing about reality and would be like animals. Abstract paintings are fictitious models because they visualise a reality, which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exists. We attach negative names to this reality; the un-known, the un-graspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in terms of substitute images live heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood' (G. Richter, quoted in R. Nasgaard, 'Gerhard Richter', Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107).



    'There's a lot in the construction, in the structure, that reminds me of music. It seems so self-evident to me, but I couldn't possibly explain it' (G. Richter. quoted in B. Buchloh, 'Interview with Gerhard Richter', in R. Nasgaard, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1998, p. 28).


    'That's roughly how Cage put it: 'I have nothing to say and I am saying it.' I have always thought that was a wonderful quote. It's the best chance we have to be able to keep on going' (G. Richter, quoted in J. Thorn-Prikker, 'Interview with Jan Thorn-Prikker', D. Elger and H. Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 478).



    GERHARD RICHTER: TRANSLUCENCY, TRANSPARENCY, OPACITY

    Rendered in a luxuriant palette of sapphire, chartreuse, and crimson, Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (889-14) is a near-regal painting from 2004 that enchants the viewer with its jewel-like surface. The present work demonstrates Richter having mastered his practice, recalling his opulent abstracts from the early 1990s including the suite of four Bach abstract paintings now housed in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden and importantly prefiguring Richter's major suite of Cage paintings (2006). In the present work, as in these antecedents, Richter's masterful handling of paint allows lustrous palimpsests of colour to rise to the surface of the canvas. No signs of struggle are apparent in the fluid swathes of paint dragged from vertiginous height to the base of the majestic canvas, the artist enchanted by the apparent rhythm of his process. A rare feature in Richter's practice, the intense verticality of Abstraktes Bild is mesmerising, a torrent of colour enveloping the viewer before it. Painted just two years after his critically acclaimed retrospective curated by Robert Storr at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and exhibited in 2005 at the important retrospective of the artist's work at the K20 museum in his home town of Düsseldorf, Abstraktes Bild appears to project a sense of the artist's own confidence and personal satisfaction at the time. 2004 also marks the year that The Albertinum, Galerie Neue Meister opened three rooms dedicated to his career in his original home town of Dresden; a major accolade for the artist. As Richter himself proclaimed at the turn of the new millennium, 'well, after this century of grand proclamations and terrible illusions, I hope for an era in which real and tangible accomplishments, and not grand proclamations, are the only things that count' (G. Richter, quoted in S. Koldehoff, Gerhard Richter: Text, 1999, p. 353); a sense of this grand strategy is evident in Abstraktes Bild.

    Throughout his career, Richter has probed the notions of reality and representation, articulating his ideas across a wealth of media. Over the course of 2004, Richter explored the possibilities of abstraction and figuration across many media, including Strontium (De Young, San Francisco), Abstraktes Bild (Haut) (Skin) (Artist Rooms Collection, Tate, London and National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh), 11 Scheiben (11 Panes) (Artist Rooms Collection, Tate, London and National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh), Waldhaus (House in the Forest), Ohne Titel (11.10.2004) and Ohne Titel (8. Sept. 04), 2004, the year being one of the most varied of his career. Transparency, translucency, opacity and reflection were subjects that he was actively re-engaging in. In 11 Panes (2004), the repeated panes of glass establish optical illusions and distortions in a manner that recalls the near-sculptural use of paint in Abstraktes Bild. In the painting, the thick, viscous texture of the medium offers the work a certain sheen; the rich medium apparently defying gravity. Richter's atmospheric and romantic landscapes and his abstracts from this period often complement each other, together making up a 'world view' which will nevertheless always remain fragmentary. House in the Forest (2004) depicts a wooded vista of velvety green pine trees. The painting offers a pronounced horizon line that is a natural counterpoint to Abstraktes Bild with its swept horizon of richly impastoed double-swipe striations tracking the top portion of the work. While there is no mimetic representation of reality, there is an equivalent and equally convincing pictorial reality that opens up before the viewer. During the same period Richter began his experiments with images of atoms under the microscope magnified to the point of abstraction, as exemplified in Strontium. In Skin, Richter captures the pattern of sound vibrations across the surface of milk, reflecting concerns which underpin the artist's practice in Abstraktes Bild.

    RICHTER'S SPECIAL CADENCE

    Abstraktes Bild recalls the artist's majestic Bach cycle of 1992 in terms of its composition and royal palette. It stands as a bridge between these benchmark works and his seminal Cage series of 2006. A figure of admiration for the artist, Richter was especially captivated by the American avant-garde composer, John Cage, during this period. Richter found an acute affinity with Cage's concept of the impossibility of saying nothing once a frame of communication had been constructed, as even emptiness has a voice. As the artist once recounted, 'that's roughly how Cage put it: 'I have nothing to say and I am saying it.' I have always thought that was a wonderful quote. It's the best chance we have to be able to keep on going' (G. Richter, quoted in J. Thorn- Prikker, 'Interview with Jan Thorn-Prikker', D. Elger and H. Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 478). Great affinities exist between Cage's aesthetic and that of Richter's articulated in paint. Richter has noted that he has always seen his abstracts as, 'something musical. There's a lot in the construction, in the structure, that reminds me of music. It seems so self-evident to me, but I couldn't possibly explain it' (G. Richter quoted in B. Buchloh, 'Interview with Gerhard Richter', in R. Nasgaard, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1998, p. 28). As in the magisterial Bach series, the marks in Abstraktes Bild offer their own rhythm, each pull of paint betraying its own special cadence. Beneath the harmonious interplay of wet on wet paint we catch glimpses of a still monochrome base. The quiet confidence of this antecedent layer recalls the alternating silent and discordant aesthetic of Cage. Built up with stochastic applications of paint, applied to smooth pulls of colour, the later series of Cage paintings offer a logical continuation to the present work.

    ABSTRAKTES BILD: AN INTENSE VERTICALITY

    Created by handling swathes of paint across the canvas with a squeegee, the tool represents Richter's most important implement for incorporating contingency into his painting. Richter's vertical action pulls a curtain of ombré sapphire and thistle, mixing wet paint into wet paint and causing streaks of rich marbling and blooming chromatic fusions. Initially established as flat layers of paint, cavities and canyons melt away to reveal kaleidoscopic fissures of teal, emerald and magenta like the successive layers of a fossil ammonite. The chromatic and tonal contrast of each successive geological layer creates a sense of depth and time within the work. The eye trips and caroms off the paint as it descends toward the last homogeneous coat that is visible at the base. Verticality, an important characteristic in Richter's oeuvre during this period, is powerfully present in Abstraktes Bild, a gesture that was re-iterated by the artist in two captivating over-painted photographs of the same year. Ohne titel (11.10.2004) has the same vertical, abstract pull of paint as is present in Abstraktes Bild, overlaid atop an image of two young children on a hill just as Ohne titel (8. Sept. 04) presents a landscape overlaid with a vertical stroke of paint in a similar palette.

    REALITY AND REPRESENTATION

    Well known for the heterogeneity of his artistic output, Richter's practice has primarily focused on deconstructing the idea that an absolute reality can be known or communicated through a single painting style. Indeed Richter has often suggested that abstraction and figuration appear as opposite ends to the same spectrum, abstraction being no less a representation of reality than those photorealist paintings of landscapes, people or places: 'every time we describe an event, add up a column of figures or take a photograph of a tree, we create a model; without models we would know nothing about reality and would be like animals. Abstract paintings are fictitious models because they visualise a reality, which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exists. We attach negative names to this reality; the un-known, the un-graspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in terms of substitute images live heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood' (G. Richter, quoted in R. Nasgaard, 'Gerhard Richter', Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107).

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    Provenance

    Wako Works of Art, Tokyo.
    Galerie Sho Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
    Private Collection, Japan.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the provenance should read:
    Wako Works of Art, Tokyo.
    Galerie Sho Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
    Private Collection, Japan.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Exhibited

    Dusseldorf, K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Gerhard Richter, 2005, no. 889-14, p. 85 (illustrated in colour, pp. 225 and 305). This exhibition later travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. Kanazawa, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Painting as Mirror, 2005 (illustrated in colour, p. 125).
    Sakura-shi, Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Gerhard Richter, 2005-2006. Tokyo, Wako Works of Art, Gerhard Richter Part II, 2006.
    Tokyo, Galerie Sho Contemporary Art, Selected Works by German Artists, 2008.


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