Although Gerhard Richter’s photo-paintings are among his earliest works of art, I first took careful notice of them in the Spring of 2009 when the National Portrait Gallery in London organized an exhibition of Richter’s Portraits. But what were they? … manipulated photos, paintings of photos, photos with paint? Soon I realized they were meticulously realistic paintings based on actual photographs and blurred by dragging wet paint over the canvas with a dry brush. When so much gimmickry is out there in contemporary art, this proved to be by my account, simply masterful!
But what is Richter exploring or trying to convey or prove in his smeared ambiguous photographic distortions? In the anonymous Frau Niepenberg (image above), perhaps we see a blonde, thin and happy woman … but is she really or are we imposing our reality onto an image we know nothing about? In a very literal way, the blurring effects in his paintings expose the artificial abstract nature of the image itself and deconstruct the photo as an image of “reality”.
I invite you to further explore the works of this introspective Contemporary Master. The best way is to see the paintings is in the flesh. Frau Niepenberg will be on view at Christie’s New York from 4-8 November. If you can get to London, I definitely recommend the Tate Modern’s Gerhard Richter: Panorama running until 8 January 2012. But if you’re in the bush in Africa and cannot get to civilization, below is a great video introduction to his work … a walkabout of the aforementioned portrait exhibition of 2009 where Frau Niepenberg was also exhibited.
image credit: © 2011 Gerhard Richter. Christie’s, New York, lot 38, Frau Niepenberg, signed, titled and dated, oil on canvas, 55.1/8 x 39.3/8 in. | 140 x 100 cm. estimate: 7,000,000 – 10,000, 000. To be sold on 8 November 2011
video credit: Gerhard Richter via YouTube