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Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)

Abstraktes Bild

Details
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Abstraktes Bild
signed, numbered and dated '591-2 Richter 1986' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
38 x 36 ¼in. (96.5 x 92cm.)
Painted in 1986
Provenance
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Private Collection, California.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1997.
Literature
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné: 1962-1993, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, p. 179, no. 591-2 (illustrated in colour, p. 97).
J. Fineberg, Art since 1940. Strategies of Being, London 2000, no. 11.40 (illustrated in colour, p. 373).
D. Elger (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné, (nos. 389-651-2), vol. III, 1976-1987, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2013, no. 591-2 (illustrated in colour, p. 491).
Exhibited
New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, Gerhard Richter, 1987, no. 591-2 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Special Notice

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Lot Essay

‘With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can neither be seen nor understood because abstract painting illustrates with the greatest clarity, that is to say, with all the means at the disposal of art, “nothing” … we allow ourselves to see the un-seeable, that which has never before been seen and indeed is not visible.’ GERHARD RICHTER

‘Richter will begin a new group of paintings by placing a number of primed canvases around the walls of his studio, eventually working on several or all of them at the same time, like a chess player simultaneously playing several boards. He begins by applying a soft ground of red, yellow, blue or green… But then it must be altered, with a new move, a first form; a large brush stroke, a track of colour drawn out with a squeegee, a geometric shape. Step by step the painting changes in appearance, sometimes sharply, with each new accretion, and goes through several states… They are finished “when there is no more I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with.”’ ROALD NASGAARD

‘Over forty paintings by Gerhard Richter produced during 1986 offer a forceful visual statement, individually and as a group … all are imposing by virtue of their thick, colourful surface. Natural tones of red, blue, yellow, and green predominate, with the addition of orange or violet in a few instances … Through vibrant colour and the unfettered appearance of their handling, the paintings in the current exhibition, all abstract, declare a freedom of expression that gives the impression of control and abandon simultaneously.’ ANNE RORIMER

‘Abstract works are my presence, my reality, my problems, my difficulties and contradictions.’ GERHARD RICHTER

With its opulent palette of fiery tones, spiked with passages of green and blue, Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild exemplifies the rich, experimental freedom that defined the artist’s output during the pivotal year of 1986. Over a photo-illusionistic ground of muted colours and semi-figurative forms, Richter drags swathes of paint using a squeegee – his signature tool, first exploited to full effect during this period. Using the end of his paintbrush, the artist interrupts the horizontal sweep of his pigment with vertical fissures that disrupt the chromatic collisions beneath. After two decades of rigorous painterly investigations, exemplified in his Photo Paintings, Colour Charts and Grey monochromes, amongst others, the mid-1980s saw the artist embark upon a frenetic exploration of free abstraction. Working without prompts or guidelines, Richter embraced the power of contingency, balancing the chance effects of the squeegee with his own painterly interventions. It was a time of great professional triumph: with his first major touring retrospectives in Germany and the United States of America, the international art world marvelled at his reassertion of painting’s potential. The canvases from 1986, many now held in museum collections, stand as a testament to this newfound liberation. With its spellbinding topography, the present work witnesses Richter’s desire to ‘erase the pictorial object’s function as an illustration of reality and to replace it with the picture’s own reality’ (J. Nestegard, Gerhard Richter: Det Umuliges Kunst, Malerier 1964-1998, exh. cat., Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 1999, p. 45).

Richter’s revolutionary body of Abstraktes Bilder began ten years earlier, cementing the move towards abstraction that had been latent in his earlier body of figurative Photo Paintings. He initially struggled to move away from the supportive framework of photography, using magnified images and photographic sketches as the foundation for his abstract explorations. It was not until the early 1980s that Richter managed to free himself from pre-meditated structure, allowing the natural evolution of paint across the canvas to dictate the appearance of his works. The development of the squeegee technique during this period was instrumental in Richter’s exploration of unplanned effect, yet was held in carefully-calibrated dialogue with his own pictorial calculations. The works of the mid-1980s were among the first to achieve a fruitful combination of chance and control, with the self-determining gestures of the squeegee mediated by conscious decisions on the part of the artist. Roald Nasgaard has explained how ‘Richter will begin a new group of paintings by placing a number of primed canvases around the walls of his studio, eventually working on several or all of them at the same time, like a chess player simultaneously playing several boards. He begins by applying a soft ground of red, yellow, blue or green… But then it must be altered, with a new move, a first form; a large brush stroke, a track of colour drawn out with a squeegee, a geometric shape. Step by step the painting changes in appearance, sometimes sharply, with each new accretion, and goes through several states… They are finished “when there is no more I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with”’ (R. Nasgaard, ‘The Abstract Paintings’ in T. Neff (ed.), Gerhard Richter: Paintings, London 1988, p. 108).

Having moved to a large studio space in Cologne with his new wife Isa Genzken, the mid-1980s brought about a period of great personal contentment for Richter. In 1986, the year of the present work, the artist was granted his first major touring retrospective at the Städtisches Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, comprising 133 works and subsequently travelling to the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, the Kunsthalle Bern and the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna. The critics’ reaction cemented his growing reputation as one of the leading artists of his generation, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung naming him ‘one of the most interesting sceptics and tacticians of doubt’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 264). The retrospective was swiftly followed by an extensive North American exhibition in 1988, touring museums including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. By the end of the decade, Richter’s global reputation had soared, paving the way for the career-defining retrospectives of the 1990s. ‘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’, wrote Der Spiegel at the time, ‘or has been as tough and ready to experiment as he is’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 264). With its mesmerizing archaeological terrain, the present work bears witness to this assertion.

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