Abstraktes Bild

Abstraktes Bild
signed, signed with the artist’s initial, inscribed and dated ‘R. 801-1 Richter 1994’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
71 x 61 cm. (28 x 24 in.)
Executed in 1994
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001
Gerhard Richter 1998, exh. cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 1998, p. 103, no. 801-1 (illustrated in colour, p. 86).
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Düsseldorf, K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, 2005, p. 309, no. 801-1 (illustrated in colour, p. 268).
D. Elger (ed.), Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, Volume 4 (nos. 652-1 805-6), Ostfildern 2015, p. 575, no. 801-1 (illustrated in colour, p. 575).
Nîmes, Carré d’Art, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Gerhard Richter. 100 Bilder, 1996 (illustrated in colour, p. 57).
Berlin, Czech Centre Berlin, Beauties and Beasts, 2018.

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Lot Essay

A marbled haze of iridescent colour swills across the richly painted surface of Gerhard Richter’s 1994 work Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting). Its opulent palette – with passages of teal, midnight blue, fiery orange, crimson and red, sage green, pure white and piercing glimmers of golden yellow – appears to meld and melt into kaleidoscopic rivulets, as if in state of constant metamorphosis. The painting exemplifies the experimental freedom that has defined much of Richter’s output from the 1980s onwards, in which he rubs, scrapes, smears and scratches thick bands of paint across his canvases using his signature tool, the squeegee. In these magnificent abstract compositions, the artist interrupts the horizontal sweep of his pigment with vertical and diagonal fissures that disrupt the chromatic collisions beneath. Working without prompts or guidelines, Richter embraces the power of contingency, balancing the chance effects of the squeegee with his own painterly interventions. In blending and blurring technical elements of his Photo Paintings, Colour Charts and Grey monochromes with an uninhibited exploration of free abstraction, the Abstrakes Bild paintings demonstrate a fascination with surface and depth, reality and artifice, illusion and allusion. As the artist has described, ‘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 unseeable, that which has never before been seen and indeed is not visible’ (G. Richter quoted in Gerhard Richter: Paintings, Minnesota 1988, p. 107).

By the time of this painting’s execution in 1994, Richter’s three decade long enquiry into the nature of abstraction had reached new, unprecedented heights. What had begun in the 1960s as a series of greyscale photorealist paintings had, by this stage, evolved into a finely-tuned dialogue between chance and control. In 1992, the artist explained how, ‘For about a year now, I have been unable to do anything in my painting but scrape off, pile on and then remove again. In this process, I don’t actually reveal what was beneath. If I wanted to do that, I would have to think what to reveal (figurative pictures or signs or patterns); that is, pictures that might as well be produced direct. It would be something of a symbolic trick: bringing to light the lost, buried pictures, or something to that effect’ (G. Richter, ‘Notes 1992’ in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London 1995, p. 245). In this mesmeric work, the stippled and rippling veils of colour and form hint tantalisingly at the beyond of the canvas, yet nothing is ever revealed or resolved. Mastering the meticulous precision of photorealism as much as the total liberation of pure abstraction, Richter’s flare and fluency of painterly technique transcends all pictorial boundaries to become a metaphor in its own right for the very paradox of appearance.

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