The Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, hosts in its location the solo exhibition, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, of one of the greatest German artists of the 20th century: Gerhard Richter, whose retrospective opens from the 18th of May until the 7th of September 2014.
Entitled PICTURES/SERIES, the exposition is a tout court path across Richter’s production that focuses on the series, cycles and spaces, which is an aspect that has not been thoroughly explored in his work: the exhibition ranges from portraits, from the famous grey monochromes, from photographic reproductions to still lives, landscapes and abstract paintings. Originally from Dresden Germany, Gerard Richter, still active in Cologne, has elaborated a conceptual and formal research using as a basis the experimentation of materials and compositions. His long career starts in 1962 with the testing of abstract techniques and with the blurred photo-paintings. In 1966 he starts the large scale chromatic paintings cycle, the first of which, entitled 10 Colors, was created as a reproduction of the colour spectrum of colour producers. This moment marks a fundamental step in his artistic career, showing Richter’s great interest in the investigation on various ways of painting and on the use of colours.
Always during the sixties he starts creating paintings based on photographs of members of his family, friends, collectors and gallerists. Exhibited at the Fondation Beyeler is the most well-known example, Betty, made in 1977 and re-made in 1988, where he uses his daughter as a subject: starting from the photo, the artist elaborates the image as if it where a painting until he blurs it in order to have an aesthetic, enigmatic, enchanted and surreal effect.
Towards the end of the sixties and during the beginning of the seventies he starts with the Monochromes series, canvases constructed as elaborated surfaces by applying colour in a flat and homogenous way and as a support on which the colour is modelled from the various brush stroke marks. He does this by following the idea of “letting something come, instead of creating it”. According to a statement by Mark Godfrey, curator of the exhibition on Gerhard Richter at the Tate Modern in London in October 2011, the artist himself affirms that it is a way to illustrate an absence of opinions, ideas, indifference and absence of interests; however years later he admitted that it was the only way for him to represent concentration camps and illustrated his chromatic research on a universal colour.
In 1973 he creates his first religious painting such as Verkündigung nach Tizian, where Richter, following a trip to Venice was able to admire the Annunciation by Titian and was astonished to the point of wanting to reproduce an exact copy. The uniqueness of the artist’s remake lies in its abstract component; he creates five compositions each one more blurred than the other, and increasingly different from the original painting.
In the Eighties, Richter also explores themes of well-known crime reports of the time, as in his series October 18, 1977 where he portrays four members of the RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion), a left wing terrorist organisation, who were found dead in their prison cells. This news story generated large-scale emotion, which came from the controversy as to whether they committed suicide or were assassinated. The portraits, some of which of Ulrike Meinhof co-founder of the RAF, are impressive for their intensity.
The Gerard Richter exhibition, in the splendid scenario of the Fondation Beyeler, offers a complete panorama of the career of this eclectic artist who has never stopped experimenting and varying his style and subjects.
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