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Category: Exhibition 24. October 2020

Under the title "Landscape", the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien is bringing Gerhard Richter to Vienna with a landscape retrospective – the largest exhibition up to date devoted exclusively to Gerhard Richter's landscapes. The last major Gerhard Richter exhibition in Vienna took place in 2009 at the Albertina.

The show was curated by Hubertus Butin (Berlin) and Lisa Ortner-Kreil from Bank Austria Kunstforum Vienna, in collaboration with the Kunsthaus Zürich. About 130 paintings, drawings, prints, photographic works, artist books and objects are on display, provided by the artist himself and by international lenders, some of the works are being shown publicly for the first time. Many of Richter's seascapes, nocturnal pieces, woods, snow or cloud paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, up to his latest work in the Kunstforum – a drawing from 2018 – have never been on view before.

Gerhard Richter's name is synonymous with multifacetedness and changeability. Abstract or figurative, he never committed himself to one method or style, he is considered a "stylistic chameleon". The ambiguity is also evident in his landscape paintings.

When Richter, born in Dresden in 1932, moved to the West in 1961, he changed his artistic and socio-political environment and left socialist realism behind. He found himself in an environment dominated by late Informel and beginning Pop Art.

This paradigm shift triggered a skepticism in Richter's work toward certainties and categories in art. Richter began to understand artistic practice as an action, as a means of reflecting on the present. Thus, over time, Richter has addressed the problem of pictorial illusion by blurring the boundaries between abstraction and figuration and confronting the genre of landscape painting with German Romanticism.

In his examination of romanticizing landscape paintings, he refers to art history from Caspar David Friedrich to William Turner, while at the same time incorporating a level of reflection on painting itself.

Richter breaks with the landscape ideal; he does not paint nature, but rather images of nature, using photographs – taken from newspapers, magazines or self-made – as a model for his painting, incorporating the mediation through the medium in the image itself.

He calls them "second-hand landscapes", with unusual picture sections and the inclusion of irritating details. The artist operates with illusions and twists, he alters the photographic motifs and reassembles them as a model for the paintings.

Richter scrubs the canvas with a squeegee while the paint is still fresh, giving them their characteristic blurriness. It is an effect that paradoxically captures the mechanical nature of the original paintings, the photographs, by imitating a technical flaw through the handicraft of its execution. The final application is only made legible by its disturbance; it is this blurring, characteristic of Richter, that sharpens our perception.

Richter called these pictures "cuckoo's eggs", also the title of one of the five chapters of the exhibition, which is not chronological but divided into five thematic chapters.

Where Richter smears the image with paint thinner, in a kind of double annulment, he takes a close look at his past in socialist realism as well as at the apparent inwardness of the gesture of romantic landscape painting.

Richter's oeuvre eludes categorization. The common thread running through the various motifs, styles, and historical references of Richter's work, however, is painting itself: He revives this medium by constantly questioning its languages, its means of expression. The stylistic and thematic range is Richter's response to the limitations of art – and a tangible echo of his personal history. (Written by Cem Angeli)

The exhibition “Gerhard Richter. Landscapes” at Bank Austria Kunstforum Vienna is on display till February 14. 2020.

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