Signed, inscribed, numbered and dated 'Probe für 338 Richter, '73' verso
Oil on canvas
10 1/4 x 21 1/8 in, 26.1 x 53.5 cm
It was at the start of the 1970s that Gerhard Richter’s career began to gather momentum. He was invited to represent Germany at the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972 and...
It was at the start of the 1970s that Gerhard Richter’s career began to gather momentum. He was invited to represent Germany at the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972 and in 1973 held his first solo exhibition in New York at the highly influential Reinhard Onnasch Gallery. It was here that he exhibited works from a dynamic new series of one hundred abstract canvases entitled 'Rot-Blau-Gelb', to which this picture belongs. Consisting of enlarged brushstrokes, each work zooms in on the very act of painting itself.
During the 1970s Richter’s works are defined by his specific exploration into mark-making. To create 'Rot-Blau-Gelb' Richter hung a grid of one hundred canvases together in his studio to form a 260 x 534 cm block. He then painted them as a whole using a broad brush and a palette of the three primary colours. The gestural quality of Richter’s swirling path of visible brush marks signifies his interest in Art Informel, which originated in his student days upon first seeing works by Lucio Fontana. In 1973 he wrote about the delight he found in using the freer technique evident here, “I find this changing and allowing to flow, relativising, more attractive than fixed form, than set signs. This all has something to do with the ‘informel’”.
Richter's considerable commitment to exploring abstraction also marks the impact of Abstract Expressionism. Richter credits Jackson Pollock for making him realize that “there was something wrong with my whole way of thinking”. Like Pollock, Rothko and De Kooning, he makes clear the naked physical presence of colour and form as the essential materials of all painting. As Benjamin Buchloh points out, what is at play here is Richter’s “rhetoric of abstraction”. In works such as this Richter seems to propose that all painting is abstract if one looks closely enough.
This mesmerising work also shows Richter’s attraction to the interplay between control and chance effects. Richter first painted the hundred-canvas grid in configuration, then deliberately divided up the pictures for them to be sold separately. As part of a highly innovative series, each piece fits into one whole, whilst also standing as a beautifully painted art work in its own right. Today, the canvases belong to private collections and museums around the world, including the Dallas Museum of Art.
Private Collection, Amsterdam
Richter, Gerhard (ed.), Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol III, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik, Germany, 1993, no. 338/1-100, illustrated in colour as an installation
Jürgen Harten, ed., Gerhard Richter: Paintings 1962 - 1985, Cologne, 1986, p. 163, illustrated in black and white as an installation