"I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself"
The artist interviewed in 1990 in: Hubertus Butin, Stefan Gronert, and the Dallas Museum of Art, Eds, Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Verlag Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36
"Abstract paintings are fictitious models because they visualise a reality which we can neither see nor describe but which we may nevertheless conclude exists."
Gerhard Richter in Exhibition Catalogue, Documenta 7: Gerhard Richter, 1982, n. p.
The intensely beautiful polychromatic expanse that comprises Struktur (1) undeniably represents one of the most resolved exemplars from Gerhard Richter's epic corpus of Abstract Paintings. Executed in 1989, this is the first of the four-work Struktur series painted that year. Even amidst Richter's prolific contribution to Abstraction, these four paintings stand out as an especially resolved and harmonious cycle. Alongside comparable, four-work, titled series such as Eis (1989, catalogue raisonné: 706-1, 706-2, 706-3, and 706-4) in The Art Institute of Chicago; Wald (1990, catalogue raisonné: 731, 732, 733, and 734) number 3 of which is on loan to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; and Bach (1992, catalogue raisonné: 785, 786, 787, and 788) in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, which are all regarded as masterful within this canon, the paintings of Struktur are very much a paragon of "The compositionally complex, heavily impastoed and richly polychromatic Abstract Paintings" as described by Roald Nasgaard (Roald Nasgaard in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 106). The aesthetic of Struktur (1) is the most varied, dynamic and exciting of the Struktur suite, incorporating a wider spectrum of hues and a highly satisfying composition with an emphasis on a vertical axis, unlike the other three whose organizations are predominantly horizontal. It is thus a major painting of keynote significance in the oeuvre of Gerhard Richter.
The intense colouristic harmony and lyrical resonance of Struktur (1) broadcasts an atmosphere of density, chaos and romance. The interplay of hues and the complex layering of thick impasto are deliberately ambiguous, seeming both to reveal and conceal at the same time: the viewer is invited to look both at and through the laminas of material due to the hues being simultaneously unveiled and hidden. The result of Richter's phenomenal technical aptitude that has led to his reputation as one of the outstanding painters of our era, this work is testament both to his ceaseless technical explorations in the field of Abstraction and to the painterly and intellectual elasticity unique in his work.
Richter initially confronted abstract painting when he executed a group of vivacious and colourful sketches in 1976, and thus this work stems from well over a decade of his investigation of various technical and aesthetic abstract possibilities. Richter's working practice for his Abstract Paintings has been described as remarkably methodical: he begins by placing a number of white primed canvases around the walls of his studio, eventually working on several of them simultaneously and reworking them until they are completely harmonized, which has been compared by Peter Sager as being "like a chessplayer simultaneously playing on several boards" (Peter Sager, 'Mit der Farbe denken', Zeitmagazin 49, 28th November 1986, p. 34). Tracts of colour are dragged across the canvas using a squeegee, so that the various strains of malleable, semi-liquid pigment suspended in oil are fused together and smudged first into the canvas, and then layered on top of each other as the paint strata accumulate. The painting undergoes multiple variations in which each new accretion brings colour and textural juxtapositions until they are completed, as Richter himself declares, "there is no more that I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with" (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108). This process necessitates a lengthy production as the role of time obviates the dominance of a single creative identity: Richter's abstract works become truly the summation of a creative journey, trapping in their layers the shadows of wrought experience.
Furthermore, Richter's technique affords an element of chance that is necessary to facilitate the artistic ideology of the abstract works. As the artist has himself explained, "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself" (the artist interviewed in 1990 in: Hubertus Butin, Stefan Gronert, and the Dallas Museum of Art, Eds, Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, p. 36). With circumstance as a defining trait of its execution, the painterly triumph of Struktur (1) becomes independent of the artist and acquires its own inimitable individuality as the autonomous product of creative coincidence.
In sum, Struktur (1) perfectly embodies Richter's theory of Abstraction that "there is no order, everything is dissolved, [it is] more revolutionary, anarchistic" (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, 1988, p. 108). His Abstract Paintings are designed to have a non-identity whereby the total deconstruction of perception - interrogating and dismantling themes of representation, illusion, communication - becomes a sublime chaos. As such they commune an emotional relationship with the viewer and become themselves experience rather than object. In the words of Nasgaard, "The character of the Abstract Paintings is not their resolution but the dispersal of their elements, their coexisting contradictory expressions and moods, their opposition of promises and denials. They are complex visual events, suspended in interrogation, and "fictive models" for that reality which escapes direct address, eludes description and conceptualization, but resides inarticulate in our experience" (Roald Nasgaar, Op. Cit., p. 110).
Oil on canvas
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Gerhard Richter 1988/89, 1989, n.p., illustrated in colour
Washington, DC, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Munich, Haus der Kunst, Beauty Now, 1999-2000, p. 149, illustrated in colour
225 by 200cm. 88 1/2 by 78 1/2 in.
Angelika Thill, et al., Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, 1962-1993, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, Vol. III, no. 690-1, illustrated in colour
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner