Gerhard Richter: the malevolent deity

by HRM on October 3, 2011

Review of the exhibition at the Marian Goodman gallery, Paris


While the elite of the European art scene mingle in the inner courtyard of the Marian Goodman gallery on the Rue du Temple, sipping champagne and swapping business cards, the artist himself has already taken off. After signing a reasonable amount of books, hastily glimpsing at his work and smiling a couple of times into the cameras of the art paparazzi, Gerhard Richter wisely decided to escape. He left behind a somewhat hodgepodge collection of digital prints and colored glass plates, punctuated with on enormous glass sculpture that seems to belong to another show – another era, even – altogether.


Photo by Patrick Chelli

The only time I succeed at engaging him in conversation, Gerhard and I talk about German beer. He is articulate on this subject.

Wandering from one piece to the other, looking from a distance, frowning, then slowly approaching the work – we are proper arty folk, you know – the viewer is forced from one extreme to another. Richter’s new work wavers between tender softness and geometrical abstraction. His digital prints called “Strip” are visually confusing despite being an incarnation of structure, balance and control: the images remind me of those Magic Eye images you might have played with as a child, your nose almost glued to the paper and then slowly moving away from it, waiting for the secretly hidden patterns to reveal. However, if you try that with Richter’s work, you will be disappointed. It is a bright coloured strip and it stays a bright coloured strip. No patterns or revelations are revealed.

Following the digital prints, the viewer is confronted with blobs of paint floating and merging on glass plates. The colours are sober, tender; the whole thing is not far off from a batik print. I get the feeling that something is missing from the image, though; that sense of completion that usually comes from Richter’s work is absent here. Those who felt attacked by the digital art, however, could find comfort in these consoling pictures, and this balance gives the exhibition a sense of harmony, if nothing else.


The final piece, Richter’s glass sculpture, is a transparent shelter that reflects every color in the room. When the visitors rotate around this curious object (desperately looking for an ashtray in this noble establishment), they resemble pilgrims praying to a holy relic. For even if Gerhard Richter’s new collection of work is a bit incoherent and incomplete, he will always remain a sort of demigod.



All photos (except when otherwise noted) are from the Marian Goodman website. The exhibition runs from September 23, 2011 – November 03, 2011

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