Opening: Friday 4 April 18.00
Press conference: Friday 4 April 17.00
Exhibition organisers: Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations ifa, ‘The German Culture Spring in Lithuania’, Goethe-Institut Vilnius and CAC
Gerhard Richter is one of the three most internationally well-known German artists today, alongside Sigmar Polke and Georg Baselitz. The ifa, in a monographic exhibition, shows 27 of his exemplary works. The selection that was made by the artist himself can be considered a retrospective in nuce: it provides an insight into all the phases of Richter‘s creative work – from the photopainting of the 1960s up to and including the abstract paintings of the 1980s and 1990s. His confrontation with recent history can be found in the ifa exhibition as well as in his work Black-Red-Gold, made in 1999, which had been commissioned for the Berlin Reichstag, the German Parliament building, following the return of the government from Bonn to the original capital of Germany post-reunification.
The great and single theme of Gerhard Richter – behind and beyond the various motifs, attitudes of style, and quotations from art history – is and remains the art of painting itself, a language and means of expression which he questions again and again, in the phases of work that seem so heterogenous. In this can be seen his mistrust of binding oneself to style or content in art, a mistrust which is based on his biography. Moving in the year 1961 from Dresden to Düsseldorf, Gerhard Richter leaves not only his social and political environment, but that of his art as well. He exchanges the artistic tradition of socialist realism of the then German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany) for late informal painting and the beginning of an involvement with pop art. From this changeover, he retains doubt in regard to any certainty and/or fixed commitment in the field of art. As he formulated it in 1966, ‘I have no intentions, no system, no style, no particular case or message. The artist understands the act of painting as a search for the reality of today: ‘What I saw as my big weakness, namely the inability to ‘create a picture‘, is not in fact an incapability, but rather an instinctive striving for a more modern truth, which we are already living (Life is not what is said, but the process of saying, not the created picture, but the creating).‘ (3 November 1989)
As a foil of contrast to painting, Gerhard Richter uses its modern counterpart in the depiction of reality – photography. It was 1962 when he first took a photograph as the starting point for the act of painting. Since then, he has systematically collected photographs as patterns or ‘first layers‘ for his paintings. Thus emerged an archive of private and public photos from 1945 up to today, consisting of newspaper photos, snapshots by amateurs, as well as photographs taken by himself – all of which were exhibited for the first time in 1972 under the title Atlas. From this storehouse of photographs, Gerhard Richter chooses his motifs, which he then enlarges or perhaps uses only a detail from. Through the precise reproduction of the original with all its lack of sharp definition, the picture points to the fact that it comes from the realm of photography, and to its origins in the banal world of pictures in mass media or amateur photography. The motive of the painting remains vague, as Richter reduces to tones of grey, in his translation of photography into painting. Thus he removes painting from the object, which – at the end of the 60s in the so-called Grey Pictures – completely disappears in the colour grey – for Richter, this is the colour of indifference, of nothing. The artist later returns to colour and finds his way to the abstract paintings of the 1980s.