PROPERTY FROM THE LINDA PACE FOUNDATION
Post Lot Text
The present lot will be included in volume 4 of the forthcoming official Catalogue Raisonné of Gerhard Richter, edited by the Gerhard Richter Archive Dresden, as no. 774-4, to be published in Spring 2015.
Gerhard Richter’s magnificent Abstraktes Bild (774-4) offers a blaze of primary colors seared across the surface of this large expanse of canvas. Painted in 1992, at what is widely considered to be the height of the artist’s abstract period, this particular example is distinguished by a series of prominent vertical striations, that act as a translucent gateway, simultaneously tempting and taunting us with what might lie at the heart of Richter’s exposed canvas. These prominent vertical striations result in a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows, blues and greens that cause the eye to venture across the surface of the painting on a voyage of discovery. These deliberate and calculated gestures, which Richter employs to both apply and subsequently remove passages of pigment from the surface, are at the heart of his painterly practice, designed to dissect the nature of painting and produce a work that is part chance, part inspiration, part creation and part destruction. As Richter once stated, “I don’t have a specific picture in my mind’s eye. I want to end up with a picture that I haven’t planned...Each picture has to evolve out of a painterly or visual logic; it has to emerge as if inevitably. And by not planning the outcome, I hope to achieve the same coherence and objectivity that a random slice of Nature…always possesses” (G. Richter, quoted in “Interview with Sabine Schz, 1990,” in D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago, 2009, p. 312).
Painted the same year the artist first exhibited his large-scale abstracts to international acclaim at Documenta IX, Abstraktes Bild (774-4) belongs to a discreet suite of paintings from the early 1990s which are characterized by the broad sweep of Richter’s hard edged squeegee. Here, Richter’s use of this tool is restricted to a series of vertical strokes which he applies with a considerable amount of pressure to eradicate some of his previously painterly layers. What remains are rich strata of bejeweled passages of color ranging from cadmium reds to ultramarine blues to emerald greens that shimmer with chromatic intensity. In some places the force of Richter’s squeegee removes nearly all of the pigment going right back to the pale ground, leaving only a diaphanous veil of its previous occupant. These vacant passages are then juxtaposed against areas overlooked by Richter’s squeegee, resulting in the full spectrum of the artist’s unique painterly style visible across the surface of the canvas for all to see.
The use of the squeegee proved to be an important innovation for Richter, as it enabled him to surrender a certain element of artistic control whilst enhancing the physical qualities of the paint. To complete the complex structure of his paintings, Richter puts down numerous layers of thin painterly deposits, and then drags his squeegee across the surface, disrupting the freshly painted pigment. By utilizing this method, he slowly and systematically ekes out the painting’s final appearance in a gradual process that the artist has compared to a chess match. Deconstructing the relationship between figure and ground, Richter embraces the contingency of his medium, enjoying the chance effects of the spontaneous yet confident application of paint. Once asked how chance in his paintings related to the chance embraced by Jackson Pollock or Surrealist automatism, Richter explained: “It certainly is different. Above all, it’s never blind chance: it’s a chance that is always planned, but also always surprising. And I need it in order to carry on, in order to eradicate my mistakes, to destroy what I’ve worked out wrong, to introduce something different and disruptive. I’m often astonished to find how much better chance is than I am” (G. Richter, interview with B. Buchloch, H. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting Writings 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 159).
This painting comes from a period which is hailed as the finest in the artist’s abstract career, as his work created in the late 1980s and early 1990s represent the purest articulation of the artist’s improvised technique. Indeed the early 1990s was a time of great professional satisfaction for Richter. His breakthrough exhibition at Tate Gallery, London, took place in 1991 while Documenta IX was the first major presentation of his work in Germany since the showing of 18 October 1977 in Krefeld in 1989. He went on in 1993 to receive a major touring retrospective, Gerhard Richter: Malerei 1962-1993, curated by Kasper König and accompanied by a three volume catalogue edited by Benjamin Buchloh. This exhibition grouped together 130 works spanning thirty years of Richter’s practice and was to completely reinvent his career.
Abstraktes Bild (774-4) was acquired soon after it was painted by the artist by the collector and philanthropist Linda Pace (1945-2007). Purchased for her private collection, it has not left her residence since 1993. Her deep aesthetic understanding is stewarded by the Linda Pace Foundation, which was founded in 2003 to foster the creation, presentation, and understanding of innovative expression through contemporary art. The late Linda Pace and her Foundation have provided support in excess of $40 million dollars to Artpace (the non-profit organization that Linda founded in 1995) and to support the internationally respected artist residency program of Artpace. Additional grants from the Foundation support CHRISpark, the public exhibition of Pace’s contemporary art collection, and the work of contemporary art organizations and artists throughout the world. Funds from the sale of this magnificent work will be used to realize Pace’s vision and mandate to realize an arts campus in San Antonio, Texas, the home of the Foundation, that will have as its centerpiece a David Adjaye designed building to exhibit the Foundation’s growing collection of over six hundred paintings, sculptures, installation and video works by international contemporary artists, and serve as a destination for contemplation and experience of adventurous artwork from the recent past. With this work being used to realize the fullness of her dynamic vision, it is a testament both to the strength of Linda’s artistic and pragmatic foresight and to the aesthetic imagination of this formidable artist with whom Linda Pace is, in effect, partnering.
As Richter has often pointed out, it is essentially only in the abstract that an approximate sense of the truly unfathomable nature of reality can be found. Abstract painting provides “a better way of gaining access to the unvisualizable, the incomprehensible; because abstract painting deploys the utmost visual immediacy—all the resources of art in fact—in order to depict 'nothing.’ Accustomed to pictures in which we recognize something real, we rightly refuse to regard mere color (however multifarious) as the thing visualized. Instead we accept that we are seeing the unvisualizable: that which has never been seen before and is not visible. This is not some abstruse game but a matter of sheer necessity: the unknown simultaneously alarms us and fills us with hope, and so we accept the pictures as a possible way to make the inexplicable more explicable, or at all events, more accessible” (Gerhard Richter: Documenta 7, Kassel, 1982, reprinted in Ibid. p. 100).