Gerhard Richter "Atlas", 1962-?

In 1961, Gerhard Richter (Dresden, Germany, 1932) settled in Düsseldorf, where he came into contact with Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Leug and Blinky Palermo at the Academy of Fine Arts. Not long after his arrival, he destroyed most of his earlier work, which had been produced under the auspices of traditional academic training and had little to do with the conceptual paths that art was embarking on in the sixties in Western Europe. The only thing that Richter held onto from this period was his love of photography. In 1962, he began to put together an album of photographs that would become the seeds of hisAtlas project, although it was not until 1969 that he began ordering all of these photographic images – some his own work, some found material –, on a variety of standard-sized panels.
The Atlas is a work in progress, which consisted of 641 panels containing some 5000 images when it was exhibited at MACBA. The project was presented as a somewhat encyclopaedic personal archive, in which photographs were mixed with newspaper and magazine clippings, drawings and sketches organised into themes such as family scenes, pornographic scenes, spatial experiments, landscapes, aerial views of cities, rooms, coloured cards, abstractions, etc.

This was the first time that the Atlas was exhibited in Spain. In addition, it was shown alongside a selection of 22 paintings that illustrated different approaches and ideas that Richter had explored based on the themes suggested in the Atlas.

23 April 1999 – 4 July 1999
Gerhard Richter
Born in Dresden, Germany, in 1932, Gerhard Richter currently lives and works in Cologne. He is one of the most prestigious artists in the world. Since the early sixties, when the death of painting was being announced, Richter has been exploring the medium through a variety of languages (Informalism, Realism and Abstract Expressionism) and genres (portrait, landscape, still life, geometry and gestural abstraction). Richter was educated in the German Democratic Republic under the dictates of Soviet Social Realism. His participation in Kassel’s Documenta II in 1959 introduced him to the abstract work of Jackson Pollock and Lucio Fontana and encouraged him to move to the West and to the city of Düsseldorf in 1961. There he studied at the prestigious Düsseldorf Art Academy where he met members of the Fluxus group and artists such as Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke and the West-German dealer Konrad Fischer. In 1962 Richter fused painting and photography in his renowned ‘photo-paintings’. The first, painted that same year, was Tisch (Table), an oil painting of a press image. With this work he began the archive Atlas, an extensive ongoing index where the artist keeps all the images relating to his work, especially those he uses as sources. In his photo-paintings, Richter translates amateur photographs into paintings, thus subverting even further any notions of a personal or singular style. His use of a dry brush on the wet surface of the canvas creates a blurred and ephemeral effect that relates to the historical condition of both those media: the transparency of photography and the self-referentiality of painting. Richter’s grey hues are in sharp contrast to his choice of intimate subjects or subjects relating to historical representation. Richter’s international critical acclaim is marked by his participation in the Venice Biennale of 1972, 1980, 1984, 1997 and 2007, and his presence at Kassel’s Documenta in 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992 and 1997. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, such as those at MoMA, New York, 2002, and at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2012, and is included in most international collections, such as those of Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Kunsthalle, Hamburg, and Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. Gerhard Richter, [Consultation: 23/01/2013]
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