Gerhard Richter's Frigid Digitals

Panorama of the front gallery

I felt a drop in temperature the moment I walked into the Marian Goodman Gallery on 57th Street. It was the paintings, not the A/C. Painting 2012 is the title of the show that just closed, and "strip paintings" the term for these frigid digital prints by Gerhard Richter. Any painter enamored of Richter’s sensuous squeeged canvases, which quicken the pulse and heat up the space around them, may have a harder time with these. Well, I did. These are ink, not paint. And they are the very opposite of the opulent goo he has worked to such dramatic effect, the subject of the recent documentary, Gerhard Richter Painting.*
And yet.
Something interesting happens when you are surrounded by the horizontally striped prints, something the images on this blog post cannot convey. The prints, some multipanel, are so large that you feel enveloped by them. That optical vibration is so strong that it changes the perceived distance between you and the print, so much so that it’s possible to bump into the plexi surface before you even realize you are that close.
Resisting the siren hum of the stripes
Did I love them? Like a one-night stand, you love them for the moment. The color is gloriously saturated, and the experience is trippy, but then it's over. I’m glad I saw them up close before they end up in an institutional setting which is where they seem destined for.
Come with me down the hallway
Down the hallway in the south gallery, surrounded by more of the prints, is a sculpture with six glass panels held in tension within a cubic frame. This room was so sterile, like an OR with pictures, that I had the uneasy feeling I should have scrubbed before entering. One lovely touch--and "lovely" is not a word you normally use to discuss Richter's work--was the way afternoon sunlight pouring through the window was reflected six times in the panes of the sculpture. Finally some warmth.  
A panorama of the glass cube and two walls of prints, with the entrance to the gallery at left
Below, light from a south-facing window reflected in the sculpture

The gallery website has a good set of images, which will have to do until you see one in a museum. Which I’m sure you will soon.

*Want Richter's sensuous squeege paintings? There's a whole documentary about the making of them 


annell4 said...


Paul Behnke said...

I didn't get to see this show so, thanks for the images and the commentary!

Gudrun Mertes-Frady said...

I did not see the show either, so I'm glad for your comments.
I'm sure Richter's assistants can make many many of these as decorations for corporation, looking very attractive.

I'm sure Richter has fun playing around with such huge printer, I would love to have one of these for fun and games....

Debra Ramsay said...

I missed it also. The disoriented feeling you mention, I've heard others in agreement with you. Was it the size of the field causing this? Would they have worked as smaller pieces?

Debra Ramsay said...

I just looked at your photos again and see there were smaller paintings. Did they create the same sensation? Yes or no, did they feel successful?

Joanne Mattera said...

Good question. They were beautifully chromatic prints, that's all.

Leslie said...

All I can think of is Noland and Olitski. Where is Greenberg when we need him.

Ruth Andre said...

Fabulous post on the Richter show. Love seeing his new works. I found your observations very interesting. At one time I worked as an assistant for Norman Zammitt and his works were also quite large. The feeling of being engulfed by a work was quite amazing. Thank-you for the post.