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Published:March 19th, 2009 09:21 EST
Gerhard Richter`s Abstract Paintings at the Marian Goodman Gallery, NYC!

Gerhard Richter`s Abstract Paintings at the Marian Goodman Gallery, NYC!

By John G. Kays




I visited the Marian Goodman, at 24 West 57th, New York City, on two occasions-one on the 28th of December, 2005 and then again the next day, on the 29th. I sat on the benches of the North Gallery (see my diagram) and studied the twelve Abstract Paintings-892 series (their actual titles). On the North wall there was one painted photograph with the title Mustangs Ed 131; the entire galleries of Marian Goodman are painted pure white, with only the paintings displayed. Each of the twelve works by Gerhard Richter-the 892 series-the newest of his oeuvre, and all painted in the spring of 2005, has the exact same dimensions, 77 3/8 x 52 inches (197 x 132 cm). All of them are oil paintings worked with a squeegee vigorously, in horizontal and vertical grids. The colors are varied from work to work, but they seem to function as a unit, one dependent on the other. The viewer can observe one, then another, and comparing them infinitely comes almost naturally!



(See image 892-5). 892-5 is my favorite of the twelve Abstract Painting series. There is quite a bit of blue as patches in it. The squeegee has been worked up and down, and sideways. Streaks of green, red, pink, and yellow fleck the surface. Black bars partially separate the brighter tones, but the eye always returns to the blue patches. Some lighter streaks subdivide the surface in a horizontal fashion. I took a number of cell phone camera snaps of 892-5, and noticed how different the colors and patterns appeared when I compared them. I also compared them with the pristine prints in the exhibition catalog. I gazed at 892-5 from different angles, and the colors and patterns shimmered and mutated-an apparent optical illusion! The eye dances about the surface, and ones perception perpetually changes. It seems to vaguely mirror objects in nature, such as pond water, meadows, or chasms.



(See image 892-7). 892-7 rests solely on the south wall of the North Gallery. A large arch bar dominates the surface. Another large arch occupies the left upper part of the canvas, in a kind of diagonal presentation. One other thick bar extends to the bottom, and is between the two arches. All of the large bar streaks appear as if the paint was manipulated with ones fingers, but maybe just a squeegee was employed. Patches of red in vertical motion run down the right side of the canvas, in grainy sporadic blotches! Light green and rainbow splotches project through the arch, light inflected! A deep vermillion or purple pulsates down the midsection of the canvas; the tones vibrate in grids down the canvas, and lighten or darken, according to how they hit your retina. With 892-7 it is as if you are pulling into St. Louis gazing from a riverboat on the mighty Mississippi!  



(See image 892-8). This one comes very close to the most inspirational. 892-8 has a grainy, textured quality. The bottom left corner has some yellow/orange flourishes. There is an undercurrent of green, especially on the whole right side. The tones are mostly combed in a horizontal direction. Some infrequent grey verticals create window panes to peer into. Rough layered textures of paint give it a depth and evasiveness. Some of the colors have run together and blend uniquely to form a profound deep purple. Sporadic patches of white free-up the eye to dwell on maroons and marbled-purples-and thus act as a ground. The eye searches toward the illusionary horizon for figures or the contours of landscape shapes, but all are phantasms of the eye. All strokes are purely abstract, but the viewer hallucinates form, yet nothing is there! Richter has a good sense of humor, but invents new vistas of painterly surface, new fodder for the eye, and Cartesian geometric patterns that that are a slap in the face for the philosophy of painting. Mainly by rejecting schools, isms, or rational platitudes, Richter approaches new unrealities that bath the eye of the bold and curious!

Diagram of North Gallery


(See image 892-11). 892-11 is more washed-out, atonal, and opaque. There is a preponderant white ground, as well as a sweeping horizontal fluidity. The left side has a few vertical, dark bars that lead the eye up and down; but mostly you`re swept sideways. There are sparse traces of red in the bottom left of the canvas. Again, new colors are created-mainly a light chartreuse or wistful lavender-almost colorless, white bars play throughout the surface-the gentle tones soothe and calm; your in a rainy Seattle morning. 892-11 is very complimentary to the louder works, such as 892-6. First you glance at a bright one, then you shift to a flat one, then you mellow out lightly. This seems to mirror nature. 892-11 is pinkish in tone, but it`s a contrived tone, and changes as you glance at another, then back to # 11. # 11 exudes placidity and would be a welcome friend on my condo wall. It could purge a body of stress in a nanosecond, bring peace of mind, free your soul to gentle, healing waters. 892-11 is the most transparent piece-the most feminine one too.


You will want to refer to the Marian Goodman web page frequently, because you can see the Gerhard Richter exhibition, that ran there from November 17th, 2005-January 14th, 2006-immaculately displayed, albeit your viewing is vicarious. The show in its entirety is archived under current exhibitions, but by the time you read this it may be under past exhibitions. Nonetheless, you should be able to get to it from the artists category. All three of the galleries are included, and this came in handy when my memory faltered, as to which works were in which gallery. You may want to peruse it carefully, then reread my piece, although I do have some pictorial aids included with my review.


The North Gallery viewing room is really just some side niches or panels in the front of the main gallery. 891-3, oil on linen, is much smaller than the 892s (40 3/16 x 28 1/3 inches), but is more amorphous, light green in tone, but streaked with blues, pinks, and olive. 891-4 is lighter with whites on the right, yellow in the top middle, and green on the bottom. It`s like your dreaming on a placid pond-very transcendental and hypnotic! 802-7 is a blue/grey dual play, with sharp horizontal lines that look like Venetian blinds.


This first rendering from the Middle Gallery, 892-11 may be misnumbered, as that number was used previously in the North Gallery. Maybe Richter was just dealing us a lark. This one is a diffused, flat grey/green one-looks like clouds. 889-1 is brighter with reds, ochres, and horizontal rainbow bars. It has a happier, musical feel. 891-1 Waldhaus is a painted photograph of verdure and mountains. 889-1 (2004) is dripping greens on a light ground. Again, these are early examples of where Richter`s painting experiments would go with the very fresh 2005 series. The surface isn`t as manipulated as the newer stuff; it looks like a bucket of green paint was nonchalantly tossed on this aluminum plate!


The silicates were in the South Gallery, and many of them are enormous. 885-1 Silicate is 114 1/6 x 114 1/6 inches, perfectly square. This is a painted photograph of a extremely blown-up molecule, and looks like honey-combed Nouveau Op Art. It toys with the eye creating titillating geometric patterns. 885-2 Silicate has a more horizontal flow to it; these silicates (or silly Kays) might suggest that every molecule in the universe is secretly a potential work of art! A mind-numbing phenomenon of nature! 885-3 Silicate looks like a gigantic air conditioning filter. Yea, I know this stuff is not suppose to resemble anything from our past-personal or collective memories!


As I write this I try to simulate the sort of free associations that Gerhard Richter utilizes. Your soul must remain a tabla rosa, then original feeling will spring forth as if from a natural fountain. A disregard for Art History is a golden rule, and free expression will be born by a systematic de-tethering from everything. I created my own little 892 series in my North Gallery diagram. They are not simulations of Richter, but free-flowing pastel applications. His 2005 series is pure painting, and must have been conceived in a robotic trance-purely in the now, with no interference from the past, present, or future. This is what Ad Reinhardt tried to do-painting is a separate dimension-not tied in with daily life or history. It would be interesting to apply that same principal to writing! This is Zen Buddhism-you tune into the paints and canvas-you use your muscles, arms, and fingers to apply materials to a medium, then an optimum, never-before-seen creation will be born. This is the only possible task, the only conceivable challenge! You create something out of nothing-then when you create another one, it is begot of the last-continuous, but a blatant new expression, a brave new world!