Gerhard Richter Retrospective at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Last night I went to this amazing, huge, sprawling show. Left overwhelmed and exhausted by the fifty-year career of this artist.


The show starts with his early (1960s) work on photographs, where he enlarged photos and then painted them, but, while the paint was still wet, used a brush to blur the edges. It is completely hard to describe, but the final effect are large-scale paintings that look like photos, only blurry… but as if there is a secret you cannot quite find there. Like this black-and-white of a tiger. Not a photo, a painting about 6×7 ft.


Then a series of landscapes and other paintings informed by Richter’s grounding in the classical tradition of painting. And yet transcending/passing classical traditions with the absolute freshness of the way he handles his images, and the eerie photographic reality of the work.


Then the first series of abstracts, using size/scale, color, and media in extraordinary ways.



This one is from a series of small paintings done in enamel on glass. The colors in person are unreal, as is the edginess of the work because of the sharpness of the enamel/glass combination.

Then a roomful of portraits–and one self-portrait–that were tremendously moving and personal.


Then a roomful of nothing but gray paintings and glass works (sculptures?) using painted and plain glass sheets or mirrors.

Then the final series, including September 11. Ten rooms: brilliant and moving and exhausting.


Richter is clearly a man and an artist with a very, very smart brain, a sense of humor, and the willingness to take risks. And to experiment. Most of what we saw last night could be put down to an artist continually learning and re-learning his craft, and experimenting with technique and his own curiosity,  and a ruthless self-honesty.


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