Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property From An Important California Collection
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)

U.L.

Details
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
U.L.
signed, numbered and dated 'Richter 1985 579-3' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
32 1/8 x 26¼in. (81.6 x 67.3cm.)
Painted in 1985
Provenance
Private Collection, Bern.
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
C&M Arts, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005.
Literature
J. Harten and D. Elger (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Paintings 1962-1985, Cologne 1986, no. 579-3 (illustrated in colour, p. 333).
B. Buchloch (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersitch/Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, voll. III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, no. 579-3 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

'A picture like this is painted in different layers, separated by intervals of time. The first layer mostly represents the background, which has a photographic, illusionistic look to it, though done without using a photograph. 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. By then it is a Something which I understand in the same way it confronts me, as both incomprehensible and selfsufficient. An attempt to jump over my own shadow... At that stage the whole thing looks veryspontaneous. But in between there are usually long intervals of time, and those destroy a mood. It is a highly planned kind of spontaneity' (G. Richter, 1984, quoted in H.-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, D. Britt (trans), London, 1995, p. 112).


An explosion of reds and yellows, which streak across the canvas, U.L. is an incredibly dynamic example of Gerhard Richter's Abstract Pictures. This work was painted in 1985 and was therefore one of the most recent pictures to feature in the important monograph dedicated to the artist the following year. Accompanying his touring retrospective, that book included an authoritative catalogue raisonné ofworks completed before that time. U.L. was shown alongside three other works with a title comprising two initials named for notable art historians who were writing about Richter in 1985. Here the title U.L. is in direct reference to the art writer and curator Ulrich Loock, one of the collaborators on his important retrospective, and author of three catalogues on the artist in 1985. The three further works share in this dialogue: B.B. is named for Benjamin Buchloh who wrote a catalogue essay for Richter, C.B. refers to Coosje Van Bruggen who wrote a piece in Art Forum and D.Z. signifies Denys Zacharopoulos, who together with Ulrich Loock, published the seminal book on the artist Gerhard Richter in the sameyear. Through palimpsests of colour across the multilayered surface, the left hand side of the painting reveals glimpses of the smooth photo-realist blue skies beneath, requiring an almost archaeological investigation into the raw reduction of forms.

It was during the mid-1980s, when U.L. was painted, that Richter's abstract pictures garnered an increasing amount of international attention. Interest in his works was fuelled by the resurgence in painting that was occurring in the United States of America at the time. Richter's pictures appeared current and apt against the backdrop of these Neo-Expressionists. At the same time, in spirit they were diametrically opposed to much of the outpouring of energy of his contemporaries. Richter's pictures were controlled responses to the question: what to paint? In this sense, they were the next logical step in his progress from Photorealism. After all, one of his great epiphanies had occurred when, visiting Documenta 2 in 1959, Richter had seen the abstract pictures of Lucio Fontana and Jackson Pollock and had perceived the obsolescence of figurative painting in the modern era. Initially he exorcised that revelation by creating works based on 'arbitrary' photographs, using them as an almost silent armature that he would copy in order to continue painting. Gradually, though, he moved back towards abstraction, allowing himself to create pictures whose motifs would become slowly apparent as they evolved, brushstroke by brushstroke. U.L. demonstrates this perfectly, highlighting the extent to which Richter was a great pioneer and investigator of painting. As Der Spiegel wrote of his 1986 show: 'No one else has explored the potential of painting in an age of mass photography in as coolly engaged and intelligent a manner as he has, or has been as tough and ready to experiment as he is' (Der Spiegel, 1986, quoted in D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, E.M. Solaro (trans), Chicago & London, 2009, p. 264).
That influence of photography on Richter's work is emphasised in U.L. by the glimpse of a soft, sky-like blue in the background, behind the turbulent criss-crossing patterns of abstract brushwork and paint application. That hint of blue gives the impression that U.L. has been painted over one of Richter's own photographic works, although usually he instead used a foundation that was of a similar texture to those figurative images yet was actually abstract. This adds an extra tension and dynamism to the conceptual tug-of-war that is occurring in Richter's picture, as the motifs are effaced, obscured and finally evolve in a new light.
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