款識：636 Richter 1987（左板畫背）636（右板畫背）
每組：102 1/2 x 78 7/8 英吋 (260.4 x 200.3 公分)
整體：102 1/2 x 157 3/4 英吋 (260.4 x 400.7 公分)
“No ideology. No religion, no belief, no meaning, no imagination, no meaning, no invention, no creativity, no hope – but painting like nature, painting as change, becoming, emerging, being-there, thusness
; without an aim, and just as right, logical, perfect and incomprehensible.”
Gerhard Richter pulls the squeegee
across a luminescent expanse of sticking, shimmering oil paint. A central space of black grounds the artist’s brilliant gradations of strawberry red, acid yellow, bright cerulean, turquoise, and lime green. His tool swoops in wide diagonals; vertical and horizontal striations of pigment, a spackling of sunshine yellow and midnight blue. At such scale, the range of color, the prismatic rainbow of hues shining forth, is all-encompassing, overwhelming; astonishing in its depth, its encapsulation of the act of painting, of color played out across time. This is Abstraktes Bild,
a painting of monumental scale, and a record of Richter, a true innovator, at the height of his powers.
comprised of two canvases, spans over eight feet in height and thirteen feet in width. The work
is a consummate example of Richter’s skill with the squeegee, a tool he integrated into his abstract paintings only one year prior, which has become a hallmark and visual signature of his richly varied practice.i
With the squeegee, the artist pulls paint across the composition, working on both canvases at once, scraping layers out from under one another in a seemingly infinite field of color.
An Innovative Method
Gerhard Richter, Venedig,
Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden. Image:/Artwork: © Gerhard Richter 2023 (0230)
The late 1980s were arguably the most important period of Richter’s artistic development. In addition to the career-changing innovation of the squeegee, 1986 marked the artist’s first major retrospective exhibition, which travelled across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and the decade, as a whole, saw an increased engagement with Richter’s work by American art institutions, galleries, and critics. As a result, Abstraktes Bild
and its fellow, monumental Abstrakte Bilder
of the late 1980s are among the finest and most desirable works in Richter’s oeuvre. The works, with the unique visual and tactile qualities realized
by the squeegee, speak to Richter’s career-long pursuit of painting unbounded by ideology.ii
His vision is the pursuit of painting, for painting’s own sake.
Besides the present work, there is only one other Abstraktes Bild
created in 1987, of identically massive dimensions, which resides in the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon. Similar Abstrakte Bilder
populate esteemed public and private collections around the world, including those of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Ergo Versicherungsgruppe AG, Düsseldorf; Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, São Paulo; Carré d’Art, Nîmes; Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; and the Saint Louis Art Museum, which owns the iconic November, Dezember, Januar
paintings of 1989. Abstraktes Bild
was first exhibited at Galerie Durand-Dessert, Paris in 1988, and shown in the prestigious Carnegie International of the same year.
Clip from Gerhard Richter Painting,
The use of the squeegee in Abstraktes Bild
is essential to understanding the work’s significance in Richter’s oeuvre. The 2011 documentary, Gerhard Richter Painting,
directed by Corinna Belz,
gives unprecedented insight into the artist’s technique. Clips from Gerhard Richter Painting
reveal a physical, deliberate, and embodied process. Working with wood and acrylic squeegees often larger than his own body, Richter drags paint across the canvas, at times applying his entire body weight to the squeegee. Belz’s microphones capture the deep scrape of the tool across the painted surface, and every squelch and drip of viscous oil paint. Each pass of the squeegee simultaneously covers the surface in new paint, excavates extant layers, and creates a new layer of color out of these accumulations.
One can imagine the practice played out, nearly 25 years earlier, with Abstraktes Bild.
Richter’s layers of paint record the movements of his body and squeegee. Through paint, we can see his entire body working to drag the tool from the upper left to lower right of Abstraktes Bild.
We see the skittering vertical ridges of yellow and green; a passage of white that skips, ever so slightly, at the hinge of the two panels. It is a visceral, bodily feeling, enacted in visual terms.
A Postmodern Context, A Natural Process
“The moment a narrative like Greenberg’s or Judd’s no longer dominated painting is the moment when painting got interesting.”
Richter created Abstraktes Bild
in the international art historical context of postmodernism, a vein of criticism that deplatformed an artist’s originality in favor of viewing the artistic process as a reinterpretation of existent forms. Postmodernist critics decried the death of painting in the 1980s, cynically arguing that painting, whether figurative, abstract, or in between, had nowhere else to go. No further innovation could come from that medium, they argued. Richter disagreed.
In his writings and interviews from the 1980s, Richter lays out his stance as an artist without ideology, who, therefore, is guided by his materials. “I am a materialist on principle” he wrote in 1986, meaning that, for him, every emotive association of art derives from its physical properties: for Abstraktes Bild,
it is the paint, the support, the brush, the squeegee.iii
For Richter, the lack of a universal ideology to guide all painting was not a death sentence, but a form of freedom, which allowed his abstract paintings to “evolve their motifs as the works proceeds,” as in the natural world. “For nature, too, does not develop an organism in accordance with an idea,” he wrote. “Nature lets its forms and modifications come, within the framework of its given facts and with the help of chance.”iv
The above quotation can be read as a how-to guide for Richter’s squeegee method. Given a squeegee, oil paint, and two wooden panels, the result of each Abstrakte Bilder
is different, due the role of chance in the painting process. While Richter has control of what colors he uses, where he applies them, and how he moves the squeegee (in what direction, with what force), it is chance that creates the gradations of color across the surface; chance that stipples the lime green in its idiosyncratic, irreplicable pattern over the black center; chance that scratches through the teal and midnight blue. Abstraction is a way to give form to chance; “the moment of chance is very important,” Richter explains, and “it is guided and used” in Abstraktes Bild
Crucially, chance takes place over time in Abstraktes Bild.
The work is not the result of one swipe of the squeegee, or a spontaneous splat of dripped paint. As does nature, Richter’s work takes time.vi
While not etymologically related, build
as a homophone for Bild
is a useful interpretive framework here. Richter builds up
the painted surface of Abstraktes Bild;
the work builds upon itself,
layer upon layer, like rings make a tree, sediment makes a rock, bees build a hive. Abstraktes Bild
records Richter’s movement with the squeegee; the process of nature, of work, over time.
Richter takes up the generative process of nature as his subject in Abstraktes Bild
, rather than directly representing a landscape or a tree, and it is this evocation of process that gives Abstraktes Bild
its rich associative power. Abstraktes Bild
is a close-up of the bark of a tree. It is a comet-strewn night sky. It is the iridescent wings of a beetle. It is these and a thousand more things, and that, Richter says, is where the Abstrakte Bilder
“get their effect from, the fact that they incessantly remind you of nature, and so they’re almost naturalistic anyhow.”vii
Naturalism and the Sublime
Gerhard Richter, Geseke,
1987. Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Image:/Artwork: © Gerhard Richter 2023 (0230)
“This little slice of nature, and in fact any given piece of nature, represents to me an ongoing challenge, and is a model for my paintings.”
Indeed, naturalism is a key feature of Richter’s photorealistic paintings, and he has painted landscapes since the 1960s.viii
Richter’s photorealistic landscapes have a haunting, ethereal quality, engaged by the artist’s strategic blurring of the mimetic surface. The moodiness of Richter’s landscapes echoes the dramatic, emotive vistas of 19th
century Romantic painters such as Richter’s countryman, Caspar David Friedrich. For artists like Friedrich, the natural landscape was the ideal visual representation of the sublime, an aesthetic ideal of rightness or greatness, or even the divine. To encounter a sublime landscape was an emotional experience, provoking awe and a sense of satisfaction in the viewer.
Richter views his photorealistic landscapes and abstract works as complimentary practices, and he continued to create landscapes concurrent to his development of the Abstrakte Bilder.
His mastery of the strategic blur in the former comes across in the press of lime and yellow in the black center of Abstraktes Bild,
for example, and for a brief period in 1986, the artist experimented with combining his photorealistic landscape and squeegee techniques together in the same painting. The photorealistic work “has so much to do with reality that I wanted a corresponding rightness,” Richter says. In abstraction, “I believe I am looking for rightness…in nature everything is always right: the structure is right, the proportions are good, the colors fit the forms.”ix
Thus, for Richter, “rightness,” or perhaps, even, the sublime, lies not in the representational, but the abstract. It lies in the process of nature, the process of painting, as embodied in Abstraktes Bild.
Caspar David Friedrich, Das Riesengebirge (Giant Mountains),
c. 1830-35. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Nationgalerie, Berlin / Jörg P. Anders / Art Resource, NY
“Art is the highest form of hope.”
It was necessary for Richter to have a hopeful view of painting in the cynical, postmodern context of the 1980s. As an artist working in a Germany divided after World War II, hope was an irreplaceable tool for Richter to parse the difficulties of everyday life in his art, not to mention the trouble of memory and historical trauma. In a 1986 interview, the taciturn artist grows passionate as he describes the link between art and hope. For Richter, making art is an essential part of the human experience, and celebrating it as such is essential to his 1980s practice. “It’s a hopeful thing” to make art, he says, “to possess this ability, and a good, humanistic thing. It stands in opposition to all the unpleasant things, such as aggression and malice, war and crime…to me [art] means this other side, which engenders hope, because we have this side in us: beauty, love, truth!!”x
Abstract art, for Richter, is the ideal form for this “hopeful thing,” as the absence of recognizable forms creates the “sheer necessity” of finding a deeper meaning, for ourselves and what we see, in the work.xi
Working with chance, as in Abstraktes Bild,
each painting by Gerhard Richter hinges on his unflinching faith that the work will emerge, out of layers and layers of paint, every time.
Rosemary Cohane Erpf, Painting in the 1980s: Reimagining the Medium,
University of Chicago Press, 2022, p. 111.
Gerhard Richter, quoted in Erpf, p. 105.
Richter, entry for 28 Mar., 1986, in “Notes, 1986,” in Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, eds., Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-2007,
New York, 2009, p. 161.
Richter, entry for 21 Apr. 1986, ibid.
Richter, quoted in Nicholas Serota, “I Have Nothing to Say and I’m Saying It,” in Mark Godfrey and Serota, eds., Gerhard Richter: Panorama,
exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2011,
27; Richter, quoted in “Interview with Anna Tilroe, 1987,” in Elger and Obrist, p. 198.
Richter, quoted in Serota,
Richter, quoted in “Interview with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, 1986,” in Elger and Obrist, p. 186.
“Gerhard Richter: Landscapes,” Gerhard Richter,
accessed Sep. 2023, online
Richter, quoted in “Interview with Anna Tilroe, 1987,” in Elger and Obrist, p. 198.
Richter, quoted in “Interview with Christiane Vielhaber, 1986,” ibid., p. 191.
Richter, “Text for catalogue of documenta 7,
Kassel, 1982,” ibid., p. 121.
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巴黎Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert畫廊
紐約，蘇富比，2018 年 11 月 14 日，拍品編號 8
Paris, Galerie Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert, Gerhard Richter
, March 19–April 23, 1988, n.p. (illustrated)
Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie International
, November 5, 1988–January 22, 1989, pp. 119, 199 (illustrated; titled 636 Untitled
Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993,
exh. cat., Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, 1993, Vol. III, no. 636, p. 182 (illustrated, n.p.)
Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1976-1987, Volume 3
, Ostfildern, 2013, no. 636, p. 591 (illustrated)
Gerhard Richter: Panorama. A Retrospective
, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2016, p. 136
German • 1932
Powerhouse painter Gerhard Richter has been a key player in defining the formal and ideological agenda for painting in contemporary art. His instantaneously recognizable canvases literally and figuratively blur the lines of representation and abstraction. Uninterested in classification, Richter skates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike.
Richter's color palette of potent hues is all substance and "no style," in the artist's own words. From career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in short intervals. Richter's illusory paintings find themselves on the walls of the world's most revered museums—for instance, London’s Tate Modern displays the Cage (1) – (6)
, 2006 paintings that were named after experimental composer John Cage and that inspired the balletic 'Rambert Event'
hosted by Phillips Berkeley Square in 2016.