Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Gerhard Richter 'Panorama' exhibition at Tate Modern...

...guides us chronologically through the impressive career of the internationally renowned German artist. In his prolific, almost 50 year long career Richter has created work that includes photorealism, abstract and conceptual art. Though unlike many artists before him, he has continued to create a varied body of work (as opposed to evolving from one phase of his career to another). This helps to make this an interestingly diverse exhibition of just one living artists work.

There are very graphic works, such as Mustang Squadron (1964) (below), that have a border or borders that help to frame the work within the painting itself. In this case just a single one along the bottom is necessary and in almost all cases it reminds me of how designers may mount work (with borders). This painting is not just beautifully executed in terms of the attention to detail, but I also like Richter's subtle use of the green and red hues that edge it away from greyscale. This and other paintings of bombers were inspired by the aerial bombardment of German cities in the Second World War.

Mustang Squadron (1964)

One of the artists to inspire Richter's work was Marcel Duchamp, whose Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 (1912) was the inspiration for Ema (Nude on a Staircase) (1966) below. Richter photographed his wife for this work. Whereas Duchamp's work was from a side viewpoint so that it captured the movement of the womens body, the frontal viewpoint here replaces that with this beautiful delicate blurring of the image.

Ema (Nude on a Staircase) (1966)

I like the atmosphere created in landscapes such as Seascape (Cloudy) (1969) (below) and the haunting Iceberg in Mist (1982) later in the exhibition.

Seascape (Cloudy) (1969)

As is the case with Seascape and Iceberg in Mist, Candle (1982) (below) has a kind of feeling of emptiness, aside from the obvious fact that the whole canvas is painted on but not filled with subject matter.

Candle (1982)

In Betty (1988) below Richter paints his daughter in what the Tate describe, in the exhibitition booklet, as 'the Romantic trope of the figure turning away from the viewer to draw us into the work.'

Betty (1988)

Earlier in the exhibition there's a Richter version of Titian's Annunciation (1535), whereas in Reader (1994) (below) Richter paints his take on Vermeer's A Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (1657-9). His incredible ability to paint in a photorealist style comes to the fore here.

Reader (1994)

Many events both in Richter's personal life, as well as in the wider world, have inspired his work. September (2005) was painted from a photograph 4 years after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre.

September (2005)

The exhibition ends with Richter's Cage paintings from 2006. Although rich in colour and texture, I prefer Haggadah (2006) and his earlier abstract paintings on aluminium for the further depth he is able to obtain in them.

I have not recommended an exhibition of a living artists work at Tate Modern this much since the previous Pierre Huyghe and Fischli & Weiss show's at the gallery (in 2006 & 2006/7 respectively)!

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