GERHARD RICHTER: FLORENCE epilogue by Dietmar Elger
Hatje Cantz, 2001 First edition, Unpaginated, 8 1/2" X 8 3/4" Hardcover
For nearly 40 years, in a body of work that often looks as though it was made by several different artists, Gerhard Richter has been examining the ways we perceive reality and the effects of different forms of representation on the viewer. "For me," he has said, "there is no difference between a landscape and an abstract painting. In my view, the term 'realism' makes no sense." Richter began painting on photographs in 1989 as a way of conflating sets of opposing values: the tactile paint mark that is actually abstract and the illusionistic depiction of real space created by the action of light on film. The slender volume Gerhard Richter: Florence contains a series of small square snapshots, mostly of the view outside Richter's Cologne studio and street scenes in Florence, which he altered by applying oil paint with a palette knife. In some images, he reinforces the intense color of the photograph (vivid swipes of red and yellow on autumn foliage, for example). In others, the paint nearly obliterates the scene (a milky sheet of paint nearly wiping out a bridge reflected in the Arno River). The artist, who originally conceived the project for a set of CDs (thus the square format), painstakingly subverts normal expectations. The numerical dates that serve as titles are unrelated to the dates when the photographs were taken or painted. Even the size of the reproductions is ever-so-slightly larger (rather than smaller) than the originals. But the visual pleasure of the images doesn't rely on any theoretical underpinning. The rhythmic blotting out of chunks of a view with bands of high-key color creates an abstract beauty all the more jewel-like for being rendered in miniature.