Neger (Nuba) – Gerhard Richter

Negroes (Nuba), Gerhard Richter

Neger (Nuba)

Negroes (Nuba)
1964
145 cm X 200 cm
Oil on canvas
Catalogue Raisonné: 45
Gerhard Richter

Been reading Gerhard Richter, A life in Painting by a biography written by Dietmar Eleger.  This painting was first exhibited at a show named Neue Realisten. included Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke, Gerd Richter at Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, Germany, November 20 1964 – January 01 1965 according to the artist’s information.

Rudolf Jahrling  (Gallery Parnass owner / architect ) – according to the biography – was impressed by seeing the work set up outside on the front garden of the house and gave the visiting artists the opportunity to have a group show – which turned out to be some of the earliest key and important “emerging” opportunities for exhibition for Richter.  There’s a snapshot of “tote”  or Dead, (one of my favorite pictures of Richter’s “photo paintings” propted up against a chainlink fence next to some garbage cans upon which set more paintings…  Imagine…  it puts it all into another perspective  – that of the humble beginings….  Early paintings were a bargained for $400 DM with as little as 1/3 going to artist and some paintings donated to the gallery to cover costs of exhibitions and catalogues…

Hard to imagine given the situation today, Sotheby’s reports that Neger (Nuba) 1964 just sold for a little over $5.6 million – (yeah million) as an key example of early “photo paintings” by Richter.  I wonder what someone like Richter thinks about that…?  I hope the work ends up in a public venue.  See the catalogue here.

The thing about these photo paintings and Richter at a grand scale is not to think of appropriation, but to think about perhaps that it may just be that it takes a painting to be able to really see  a documentary , or so called “objective” photograph ….  The original photograph not incidentally by photographer Leni Riefenstahl… AKA “Hitler’s favorite filmmaker“…..

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Longitude and Latitude

Today, a glimpse out the office window alternates between rainfall and sunshine,  a black hearse drives slowly by and somewhere the ocean changes color…

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena) 1969

CY TWOMBLY
Untitled (Bolsena), 1969
House paint, oil, crayon and pencil on canvas
78 x 98-1/2 inches (198.1 x 250.2 cm)

Some notes on coordinate systems as a way towards a description:

“We might say that there are two sections through the substance of the world: the longitudinal section of painting and the cross-section of certain pieces of graphic art. The longitudinal section seems representational; it somehow contains the objects. The cross-section seems symbolic; it contains signs. Or is it only when we read that we place the page horizontally before us? And is there such a thing as an original vertical position for writing – say, for engraving in stone? ” Walter Benjamin (c. 1920) p. 8 – notes from Marus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (eds.) Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 1913-1926, Harvard, MA, 1996.

I’ve been looking closely at some of Cy Twombly’s works in the book “Cycles and Seasons”. The passage quoted above resonated with me as I was looking at the reproductions of the Bolsena Paintings by Cy Twombly and reading the accompanying essay by Nicholas Cullinan. One of a series painted in 1969, the Bolsena series it is said records the events of 1969 that may have been on Twombly’s mind – the event of the decade perhaps as NASA’s Apollo 11 space mission unfolded before a collective world audience.  It’s an interesting consideration and connection of current events of that time influencing perhaps and recorded in Twombly’s own cryptic cypher of graphic marks and painterly splots.  What a hopeful time and sense of exploration!


Gulf Oil Spill May 17, 2010 - via NASA satellite imagery

NASA’s Terra satellite captured a visible satellite image of the Gulf oil spill on May 17 at 16:40 UTC (12:40 p.m. EDT) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Instrument on-board. The oil slick appears as a dull gray on the water’s surface and stretches south from the Mississippi Delta with what looks like a tail. Text Credit: NASA Goddard / Rob Gutro

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of our own current events unfolding, as reports and images trickle in on the growing disaster of the oil spill in the gulf. NASA Satellite images show the extent of the slick as is disperses – but it is too soon to know the toll and we somehow still are unsure of how to stop the bleeding. How far we have come in the last 40+ years.

Sensing and seeing pictures after paintings

I’ve been drawn to looking at Hopper’s work. I’m not exactly sure but I am primarily looking at his work for the quietness, but also for the intense isolation tinged with lonesomeness.  So it’s interesting to me to begin to notice these “scenes” out in the real world so to speak.  So I’m asking myself – how to compose a photograph to be possibly nearly as emotive as the constructed images of Hopper’s paintings…  yet clearly be “of the world out there”.
Early Sunday Morning 1930 – Edward Hopper
Oil on canvas 35 x 60 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York


East St. Louis, Illinois, 2003
From the series “Approaching Nowhere” by Jeff Brouws.
copyrighted by Jeff Brouws.

Some of Brouws work comes close to reminding me of that quietness…

54 PM. Sunday Afternoon

3:54 PM. Sunday Afternoon – Matt Niebuhr

I walk by this building above quite often – maybe finding it in the right light with the right activity level – might just get closer to what I’m searching for – an update so to speak on the “Sunday Morning” feelings in the Hopper painting…  it’s just not there yet.

Drug Store,1927 – Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Gils Maricopa – CA HIGHWAY by Jeff Brouws
I haven’t seen Brouws’ work in person – so I wonder what the prints might look like.  But the images seem promising at least in the web versions.
For me, it’s not in the painterly treatment of a photograph -but perhaps more in the spare, pared down detail, the coloring and the perspective yet flatness that a photograph can produce that lend it more of that emotive quality I’m after.

Early Sunday Morning – A model for something more…


Hopper, Edward
Early Sunday Morning
1930
Oil on canvas35 x 60 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

I’ve always been drawn to the work of Edward Hopper. Something about the beauty of a quiet calm moment and the pause that I feel when looking over the work.

There is an interesting passage in “Beauty in Photography” the collection of essays by Robert Adams, published by Aperture. From the essay “Truth and Landscape”, where Adams is describing how making photographs has to be a personal matter, somehow the photographer has to be in the picture…

“…what we hope for from the artist is help in discovering the significance of a place. In this sense we would in most respects choose thirty minutes with Edward Hopper’s painting Sunday Morning to thirty minutes on the street with what was his subject; with Hopper’s vision we see more…there seem to be moments of revelation…there is a sense of comprehension.”

Adams goes on a bit before this into the three elements landscapes should offer: geography, autobiography and metaphor – the intensity of which these three are present raises the artistic act of what we all “work to keep intact – an affection for life.”

There is something in the painting “Early Sunday Morning” that resonates with me. Perhaps it is the title of the painting that sets up the framework for entering the quiet moment he chose to portray. I imagine being there alone in the first warmth of the sun, separated by the empty space of the street and before the activity of the day sweeps us up into the constant motion of the day to come – you have the chance to just see the quiet poetry of the storefront. The rhythms of windows, doors, curtains… awaiting the activity to follow, a haircut, a drink – a place to eat. If, as Adams writes, Art asserts that nothing is banal, then a work such as this is definitely a model for something more enduring in our everyday existence and it is worth searching for these moments in photography.

783 sheets (and counting) – Richter’s Atlas

I’ve finally had a chance to look through some of Richter’s Atlas (published by d.a.p.)- and with so much imagery – so many photos, sketches, models, I am amazed at the sheer volume – 783 sheets so far. It is a wonderful book – a glimpse into the images about / around / behind /before / after the painted works…

One of my favorites is at the Des Moines Art Center…

But, I wonder what is the atlas really collecting and what’s the purpose of publishing it as a body of work ? Memories and reasons for paintings?

Some of the photographs are so well composed, I have to wonder if the desired image was already formed in the mind and the photograph is a way of testing it out – before it is transformed into a painting.

I find it interesting where the impulse to finally paint an image comes from – the creative tipping point. Photographs are like rough drafts. A collection of image models. Or, as the introduction suggests, a way of filtering all the possible images to locate the “right image”.

Of interest are the photographic experiments – double exposures and self portraits – sometimes labeled “for prints”.

I don’t know that there are any Richter photographs that are themselves catalogued as finished work. It would be interesting if there were – would they look like Richter’s paintings or be something else?

Where a painting is a “one of a kind” object – existing as its own image – Photography is always of something – and can never seem to escape that … Both involve the hand of the artist – decisions, exclusions, technique, product are all employed to produce – to create “the image”.

“One only makes a photo to make a photo, and if you’re lucky, you will discover it later for a painting. – Gerhard Richter”

Reflecting on self – finding a voice on ideas / craftsmanship

What about “style” I wonder… (ramble?)

How does it relate to determining your voice and articulating that voice and allowing others to find it – to be recognizable. It also has me thinking about how other artists look at themselves – through the democratic machine – the camera…. More about idea and technique (or maybe craft?). What role does style play?


Self-Portrait Three Times
24.1.90 Oil on Photograph
Gerhard Richter

Suppose a painter appropriates photography – to loosely record an image of self – three times. Is it a photograph (or just a narcissistic snapshot) or a painting? What might it say ? Richter’s self-portrait is more than just a photograph – not really a snapshot – after all. It does more than merely record. What transforms it ? The image or the stuff of the image (oil paint) ? Is it pretty? What is it that makes the object interesting to me – What provokes me to think.

In Richter’s self-portrait above – I visually I go back and forth into the image (the realness represented by the photo – yet recorded three times over) and then back to the physicality of the surface and the actions of the artist recorded at yet another time of the artist’s intention – an application of tool and oils… a layered time record. I think Richter represents both idea and craft in the image and I like it for that depth. But it’s all about the artist and his struggle to justify his painting right? But the craft is sort of only represented – not really embodied in the particular portrait example.

Consider another artist:
Chuck Close - Big Self-Portrait, 1968
Chuck Close b. 1940
Big Self-Portrait, 1968
acrylic on canvas
107 1/2 in. x 83 1/2 in.

Suppose an artist appropriates the photographic self portrait in a photo-realism sense -(beware ideology of “isms”) Close makes it his own I think by the fact that he painted it by hand – his hand – as opposed to the machine image – (and he does it again and again in different media over a long , long time )- but the image tries hard to be real – really real. It tries to be like a photograph record. But what is recorded here? Where do you go when you look at an image like this – where does it take you – admiration of craftsmanship – no doubt. Appreciation of artistic labor – and as I become more aware of this artists “body of work” a certain tenacity and an appreciation for change (physical aging / changes) over time. It’s old news, but I enjoyed looking again over the interview – “Navigating the Self” associated with Chuck Close’s show “Chuck Close: Self-Portraits 1967-2005” – at the Walker last year… Chuck Close closes the interview with:

. . . I think if I had been one of those smooth-faced pretty boys, I would
not have done a lot of self-portraits. I don’t think it would have been very
interesting.

Here’s a link: Chuck Close Opening Day Talk at the opening of his Retrospective at the Walker Art Center.
This melding of photography / painting is of more interest to me in particular than the question of projecting an image over a canvas to assist in producing an image – but an interesting post is presented here – on Alex Soth’s archived blog… provoking how one decides upon a content of the image – basics – I suppose on composition / content. Maybe I just don’t get it…About “style” and “categorization” by photographers and by lovers of photography – for me anyway – what seems to come of this is nothing more than galvanizing me on my opinion that it is good to avoid a recognizable style (at some point) but this probably puts at risk a weak reception of work. Just how important it is to be recognizable and therefore more saleable? Very important problem and a question – if you are trying to support yourself through your art. On one hand this is troubling. It parallels the problem of educational pedigree as a ticket to serious consideration. I wonder about questionable motivations. I guess I have a thing for amateur works.

A sense of voice is important to develop – but determining when that voice is your own is excruciatingly difficult – and who gets to decide anyway? The buying public? How easy it is to fall into a mimicry – style and all. It takes a lot to figure out a direction – and to make it your own.
Perhaps my own view is a warped and narrow view – but that’s where I am at the moment. I think finding a tone in your voice is key – but how to do that? I hope to move beyond questions of style – maybe it’s just a matter of accepting style as a given (by others) and working with it as kind of constraint. It is just a matter of doing the work.
1981
Oil on linen
Gerhard Richter
© 2006 The Contemporary Art Institute
Maybe Richter has found a way to keep from getting caught up in style – by showing how irrelevant it is in his work – Something to think about.

Spiegel
1986
200 cm X 180 cm
Gerhard Richter
© 2006 The Contemporary Art Institute
Maybe it’s a good exercise to try an make a self portrait ?

Why paint a copy of it? – Gerhard Richter

Excerpt below is from Gerhard Richter – The Daily Practice of Painting:

Interview with Dieter Hulmsmanns and Fridolin Reske, 1966:

“Mr. Richter; what attracts you so much about a photograph that
you paint a copy of it?

A photograph – unless the art photographers have ‘fashioned’ it – is simply the best picture that I can imagine. It is perfect; it does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous and
unconditional. It has no style. The photograph is the only picture that can truly convey information even if it is technically faulty, and the object can barely be identified. A painting of a murder is of no interest whatever; but a photograph of a murder fascinates everyone. This is something that just has to be incorporated in to painting……”

So… what is the point at which a particular photograph may be
considered an “authentic” representation (trace) of a subject and worth
photographing ?

Consider author and audience relationships. Context for
display of a photograph – on paper ? on the web ? in the museum ? in
your family photo album ? Does the context of the display lend any particular credibility or worth to what is photographed – in other words – if the purpose to make the photograph is to display it in your family photo album, what kind of attention do you apply – what are you trying to show? What is it that is trying to be conveyed – what’s the purpose of trying to convey in the first place ? Questions to consider the next time you press the shutter button.