Gerhard Richter Artist’s Books

Word by Jessica
November 24, 2021
To celebrate Gerhard Richter’s 90th birthday, the Kunstbibliothek is mounting the first major retrospective of his artist’s books in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. The books, for which Richter consistently drew on his own imagery and experimented with abstract processes, are indispensable for understanding his oeuvre and self-image as an artist.
Three themes run through the exhibition: “The Image of the Artist” explores how Gerhard Richter has staged himself as the creator of his paintings. His self-image as a painter emerged in books and catalogues, prints, invitations and posters in response to the many variations and shifts in society’s expectations of an artist. He made use of parody, masquerade and play, with particular emphasis on irony and humour, in his efforts to avoid being pinned down to one style of painting. “The Image of Photography” shows the photographic reproductions correlating to his painted pictures that enabled Richter to separate the paintings from their original image media and gain distance. New contexts emerged in books through his use of photographic enlargement techniques to the level of extreme detail. In the books, countless photographs by Gerhard Richter replaced images previously sourced from the press. They were overpainted with lacquer or included in the atlas, an extensive archive of the artistic work. The exhibition’s third section, “The Image of Chance“, reveals the interplay of calculation and chance in Gerhard Richter’s work. In his search for new pictorial subject matter, he brought chance into play as the artist’s counterpart.
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