Photo courtesy of Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin
Gerhard Richter: Atlas Mikromega
MUNICH • Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus • Ongoing
|The German artist Gerhard Richter (born 1932, Dresden) began work on his ATLAS in 1962, and after five decades of ongoing additions and revisions, he finalized it in 2013. The exhibition presents the entire set of plates, which the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus acquired starting in 1996. |
By uniting photographs with newspaper clippings, sketches, and collages, each of the plates creates a sense of order; grouped in larger clusters, they suggest overarching themes. Instead of reading the plates in their chronological order, we may also browse them horizontally, studying a particular cluster in depth and exploring related themes and motifs.
The ATLAS is a unique and visually dense compilation that embodies Richter’s life and artistic evolution by bringing together sources for many of his works with countless other motifs he never realized in paintings.
The two artist’s editions Betty (1991) and Domecke (1998), for example, are based on oil paintings of the same titles created in 1988 and 1987, respectively. The photographic sources for these paintings may be found on plates 445 and 446 of the ATLAS. In realizing his ideas, Richter adopts an open strategy, testing which form lets an idea become a picture and exploring the different material realizations it can pass through. The four Jacquard “Tapestries” (2009) after an abstract oil painting created in 1990 (WVZ 7244) illustrate the translation of an elementary visual idea into a different technique that is no longer under the artist’s direct control.
Fourteen tall collages made in preparation for the striped paintings show how the manual creative act of arranging the blocks of stripes precedes the technical realization of the pictures. The meticulous execution and the precise details reveal how the pictorial density of these works is achieved. (The painting “Strip,” WVZ 9241, which was made in 2012, is on display in the galleries at the Lenbachhaus.)
The title Mikromega (Greek for smalllarge) was chosen for this exhibition to highlight the dialogical principle that underlies the ATLAS. The small images and sketches in which the artist jotted down ideas await implementation in large formats. Composed of many thousands of photographs, newspaper clippings, sketches, and collages, the ATLAS with its eight hundred and two (802) plates coalesces into a single enormous picture.
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