Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All (Met Breuer online Exhibition Tour)

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All (Met Breuer online Exhibition Tour). My screenshot from YouTube.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All   
    an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York, March 4–closing date to be announced; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, August 15, 2020–January 18, 2021
    (Both museums are temporarily closed; the exhibition can be viewed online at YouTube and
    Catalog of the exhibition by Sheena Wagstaff and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, with essays by Briony Fer, Hal Foster, Peter Geimer, Brinda Kumar, and André Rottmann
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, 269 pp., $50.00 (distributed by Yale University Press). – Data copied from The New York Review of Books.
    Corona lockdown art museum visits.
    Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art / Met Breuer website / YouTube, viewed on a 4K tv screen at home, Helsinki, 29 April 2020.

AA: Emergency times prompt emergency measures in art viewing and reviewing.

Yesterday I read for the first time in my life an art review on a virtual exhibition visit: Susan Tallman's essay on Gerhard Richter "The Master of Unknowing" in The New York Review of Books, 14 May 2020, "The Art Issue". In her rewarding and thought-provoking essay Tallman states that "Richter is contemporary art’s great poet of uncertainty; his work sets the will to believe and the obligation to doubt in perfect oscillation."

On the Met website there is a 1966 film clip of Gerhard Richter's own comments which are still valid regarding his own, versatile, constantly growing oeuvre: "To talk about painting is not only difficult but perhaps pointless, too. You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that. That includes the typical question: "What were you thinking of?" You can't think of anything, painting is another form of thinking. What interests me in general, and this also applies to painting, are things I don't understand. It's like that with every picture: I don't like the ones I understand."

Richter talks about painting, and the title of the exhibition is "Painting After All", but there are also for instance glass panel installations in the exhibition. "Reflection" is a keyword in all its meanings, including thinking. And the museum architecture is also meaningful in its mise-en-scène of reflections. But painting remains essential. There is a Richter quotation from an interview with Amine Haase (1977) on the Met website: "The pleasure of painting proves the necessity of it — all children paint spontaneously. Painting has a brilliant future. Hasn’t it?” There is a "flipped image" function on the website where we can examine how Richter has painted both figurative and abstract pictures in the same year. He has not been moving from a certain period to a new and different one; instead he has been pursuing different approaches simultaneously, and there are several continuities in his production.

Among the newest works on display in the Met exhibition is the Birkenau room. To quote the website: "Richter is interested in what pictures mean—not the spectacle of the image itself. His Birkenau series was based on four photographs smuggled from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp, in 1944. In 2014 Richter revisited the horrific images, first sketching them out on individual canvases, but then gradually painting them over to produce heavily disturbed, ruptured surfaces. This veiling holds in tension the complex relationship of history and memory, with the forces of destruction and reconstruction, and with abstraction and representation."

Susan Tallman points out that Claude Lanzmann objected to any visual representations of the Holocaust, while for Jean-Luc Godard they are essential for our historical memory. Indeed film-makers who were there, from Samuel Fuller to George Stevens, instantly understood the necessity of visual records for something that would be incredible if it were not true.

Susan Tallman reports that Georges Didi-Huberman responded to Lanzmann "with a carefully considered book, Images malgré tout, which Richter read in Geimer’s German translation, Bilder trotz allem" that in turn gave the name to this exhibition.

Richter seems to accept the views of both Godard and Lanzmann. He exhibits the four authentic photographs (the only ones taken by Auschwitz inmates). And he creates enormous paintings that go beyond representation. All this in a house of mirrors where we, the spectators, become a part of the spectacle. At home, during the corona lockdown, we may want to pay attention to our reflections on the screen on which we are watching the tour.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, the virtual tour film, is an excellent achievement in its genre, film on art. I copy from its end credit title cards:

Special thanks to the artist Gerhard Richter.

All artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (20012020)

Footage courtesy of
Südwestfunk (SWR)
Kino Lorber

Music: Arvo Pärt, Fratres (1977) performed in The Met's Temple of Dendur for the program Arvo Pärt at Eighty, September 11, 2015. Alex Shiozaki, violin. Mika Sasaki, piano.

Exhibition credits:

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All is co-curated by
Sheena Wagstaff – Leonard A. Lauder Chairman, Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met and
Benjamin H. D. Buchloh – Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University,
with Brinda Kumar – Assistant Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met.

© The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No comments: