My admiration for the work of Gerhard Richter goes far back indeed. I remember to this day the first painting of his I saw. I believe it was 1982 in Cologne. My uncle Joachim Kretschmar took me to a gallery and I witnessed a gargantuan sky and cloud painting. I was struck immediately by the seemingly effortless technique but I also had strange doubts about the relevance of depicting a blue sky with clouds on such a huge scale. Why in the world would someone with such enormous technical gifts depict something so banal? This tension is probably what made the encounter last as vividly as it has. Ever since then, fueled by seeing dozens of gallery and Museum exhibitions, Richter has etched his visual vocabulary into my consciousness.
I’m pleased to offer two video tidbits on Richter, both variations of a trailer for a film titled Gerhard Richter Painting on his life and painting technique by Corinna Belz. It has been released in Germany but to the best of my research does not have a release date here in the United States. Both clips are hypnotic and reveal as much as they obfuscate about the man and his painting paradigms.
This is my favorite of the two trailers. A fixed view-point of an abstract painting in progress. It tracks various passes the artist makes with outsized squeegees both eroding and applying paint in layers. The shots of him wielding a large kitchen knife are also fantastic as he scraps layers of green away revealing blues, red and yellows beneath. The image of the gentleman artist, dressed in slacks and a blue Oxford shirt unmarred by dollops of paint, is also in keeping with the building mythology that has catapulted Richter into the highest echelons of contemporary art history. The music, sufficiently atonal and angst ridden reminds me of early soundtracks by Wim Wenders’ favorite composer Jürgen Knieper .
The second clip is a more conventional approach to the filmic portrait genre with a vintage interview from 1968 and shots of pouring paint. I would imagine the final film falls somewhere between the two styles of meditative and documentarian. In the final interview passage, Richter states that the Blues are just not working today. The exact phrase is “Es klapped nicht,” actually has imbedded in it that there is the role of chance. Dry and matter of fact we know he will approach it again tomorrow with the same sense of either hopelessness or hope or both.
The Tate Modern is opening a vast retrospective this week of Richter which travels to Paris and Berlin in 2012. Alas this incarnation of Richter’s historical survey will not make it stateside. The Artist turns 80 next year.
All this made me think also of the tremendous role filmic portraiture had in the role of the canonization of Jackson Pollack. Hans Namuth‘s appreciative documenting of Pollack in Springs Long Island in 1951 created the template for both revealing technique while completely veiling the actual identity of the artist in question. It includes the sensational footage of the lens buried below a pane of glass thereby allowing us to see the painting’s PoV of Pollack’s gravity fueled drip technique. Here then the best version I could find of that on YouTube. Cheers,
–Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, October 10th, 2011