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The Tate Modern in London in conjunction with the Nationalgalerie, Staatlich Museen zu Berlin produced the current exhibit of Gerhard Richter at the Centre Pompidou celebrating the artist’s 80th birthday. This exhibit is, in a word, exceptional.
Richter is a German painter who is recognized as one of the most important figures in contemporary art circles. The “Panorama” exhibit at the Centre Pompidou takes the visitor on a beautiful journey of exploring Richter’s art, his history and his perspectives. The space is intersected by a large triangle which is used to separate chronologically and thematically the artists work. The paintings and sculpture are well lit and beautifully displayed in a series of ten sections. Explanations are provided in both English and French. Numerous quotes from the artist have been included giving the exhibition further insight and intimacy.
Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 and was educated in East Germany. Only two months before the construction of the Berlin Wall, he escaped to Dusseldorf in West Germany. Once in the west Richter enrolled in the Arts Academy and by the beginning of the 1960’s he was part of the “German Pop Artists”. The artist’s career has continued to soar.
During the 1960‘s and early 1970‘s, Richter’s experimentation with black and white photographs is well known. His hallmark in this multistep process is the blurring of the image by use of a soft brush or hard smear with a squeegee.
Although the predominant work shown would be classified as abstract there are some beautiful classical pieces as Lectrice, where Richter paints his wife who is adopting the same pose as the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Vermeer. Another beautiful piece is Richter’s Betty painted in oil on canvas in 1988. This is the featured painting to represent the exhibit.
The exhibit begins with stark black and white paintings. Further into the exhibit you are introduced to a series of portraits showing a depth of warmth and humanity. Of particular note are the series of portraits of his wife and baby daughter which is touchingly intimate. There is a portrait of his mentally fragile aunt Marianne with Richter as a child. It is painted from a photograph shortly before she was murdered by the Germans during the Third Reich’s eugenics program.
Another interesting component of the exhibit are the panes of glass as sculptures using duplication and reflection as an integral part of the pieces.
The aerial series is intriguing. For example, from one side of the room the viewer sees a painting that is a black, white and grey aerial view of a city. As one approaches the piece the details blur to become severe brush strokes and the fragility of the city is dramatically demonstrated.
This is an interesting, thought provoking exhibition that invites the viewer to want to know more about the artist and to discover more of this man’s work who pioneered new forms of abstraction and produced innovative ways to paint while reinventing himself.
The exhibit continues until the 26th of September 2012 in Gallery 1, level 6 of the Centre Pompidou at place Georges Pompidou. The exhibit is open from 11:00am until 9:00pm.
Metro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, Châtelet
RER: Châtelet – Les Halles
Loui Franke is author of Parisian Postcards: Snapshots of Life in Paris.
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