In Strip, Richter embraces the liberating logic of machine-determined chance. Here, a digital representation of his earlier hand-painted work Abstraktes Bild (1990) is divided into 4096 vertical slivers. One of the segments, chosen at random, is digitally replicated, over and over again, until it acquires the width of a print. The purple, ochre, scarlet and blue striations formed are forcefully horizontal, recalling the motion of the squeegee with which Richter had dragged paint across the surface of Abstraktes Bild. Almost like an archaeological remnant is elevated to a new significance by the passage of time which obliterates all context, so the vertical sliver which had been numbered 2208 becomes a work of art in its own right, replicating the structure of a particular moment of Abstraktes Bild.
Simultaneously, the work looks firmly towards the future, as Richter responds to the changing condition of residing in a digital world by allowing new media to transform the artistic process from consciousness-driven creation to technocratic production. The challenge posed by Richter’s Strips to the traditions of painting is recognized by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, who writes: ‘Their rigorously parallel stripes, digitally chosen and digitally printed, are undoubtedly… threatening to our conventional expectations of the type of perceptual experience a painting should offer in order to still be considered pictorial’ (B. H. D. Buchloh, ‘Painting Progress, Painting Loss’ in Gerhard Richter, Painting 2010-2011, exh.cat., Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, 2011, p. 26). Elevating Richter’s previous experiments in abstraction to the level of the technological sublime, Strip deftly transmutes the past into the future.