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Flow (933-1)

Flow (933-1)
signed, inscribed and dated ‘933-1 Richter 2013’ (on the reverse)
diptych—lacquer on glass mounted on Alu Dibond
47 1⁄4 x 67 in. (120 x 170.2 cm.)
Executed in 2013.
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Private collection, 2014
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2019
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter. Catalogue Raisonné 2007-2019, vol. 6 (nos. 900 – 957), Berlin, 2021, pp. 358-359, cat. no. 933-1 (illustrated).
M. Godfrey, "Strips, Swirls and Smoke: Richter since 2011," Gerhard Richter. Panorama, London, 2016, pp. 282 and 288 (illustrated).
London, Marian Goodman Gallery, Gerhard Richter, October-December 2014, pp. 8, 29 and 108, no. 933-1 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Gerhard Richter’s Flow (933-1), from 2013, stands as a triumph of color and abstraction, both embracing and challenging the limits of painting in the repeated embodiments of its title. The work envelopes the viewer in a topography of spillages and drippings, astonishing in the dichotomy of precision and release that arises in this lacquered mapping. As the eye travels along rivers of forest green and canyons of Sedona red, there is difficulty deciphering the chronology of the painting. The unanswered questions of order in the painting’s genesis are intentional; in the overlaps and blends, Richter celebrates the unknowable eternity and undeniable presence of an isolated moment. The work is one of twenty Flow paintings in which Richter poured vibrantly colored enamel into a tray and then overlaid a glass panel over the undried paint, essentially freezing the rivulets and swirls in time. In this series, Richter employs Alu Dibond, a photographic mounting process that wedges a polyethylene layer between two aluminum layers. This distinctive choice reminds us of the artist’s endless evolutionary pushes to further both his craft and the bounds of painting as a medium. In the atmosphere of the sublime arising from the work’s harmonious contrast of colors, Flow (933-1) fully illustrates Richter’s unrivaled eye for abstract beauty in contemporary painting.
Richter’s plunge into total abstraction in the Flow series rewards the viewer with a complex terrain of rich hues and a phantom aura of powerful motion. In the attempt to capture a record of movement in a still medium, Richter’s work is reminiscent of the abstract compositions of Willem de Kooning. De Kooning’s Untitled XXV (1977) strikes a magnificent parallel with Flow (933-1 in the bold mix of shades and heavy, purposeful strokes of paint. The colors are also similar in their richness and embrace of natural tones. Interestingly, one key difference between the two can be found in the varying degrees of subtlety in visible marks of the painter’s hand. Where de Kooning’s work leaves obvious traces of slashing strokes and swooping curves of the wrist, Richter’s at first appears completely devoid of artist’s hand, aside from the initial pour of paint. The whims of gravity and chance almost begin to overtake Richter as the central agent of the work. However, the German artist’s mastery can be found precisely in the veiled nature of his hand. Rather than leaving the work’s appearance completely up to fate, or conversely rejecting the hand of randomness in his work, Richter works with chance. He writes: "I don’t work at random but in a more planned way, in the sense that I let a thing happen by chance, then correct it, and so on. The actual work consists in taking what appears, looking at it then deciding whether it’s acceptable or not" (G. Richter, quoted in D. Elger and H-U. Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter – Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 275).
Flow’s luscious paint spills gleam with a visceral appeal. Humming beneath this sensuous surface, though, remains a core of cognitive beauty. Richter’s work is consistently supported by a foundation of intellectual questioning. This bedrock of reflexivity allows for a melding of delights for both the eye and the mind. With Flow (933-1), Richter uses the unique Alu Dibond mounting process to hint at a reference to photography, a medium that rests on the ability to snatch one fleeting moment out of time and preserve it in a still image. In his technique of pouring paint on a tray and solidifying its movement by pressing a transparent layer over it, Richter incorporates that inner logic on which photography operates into the process of painting, in essence using the application of the glass panel as the click of a shutter. By stretching the hallowed medium of painting to attempt photography’s feat of instantaneity, Richter raises questions of the role of the artist’s hand, the physicality of paint, and painting’s relationship to time. These questions persist in any consideration of the work, intriguing and tantalizing the viewer, encouraging both deep pondering and resplendent wonder. Flow (933-1) is truly an exceptional work in the artist’s contemplative series, embodying all those characteristics that set Richter apart as one of the greatest painters of the contemporary age.

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