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Tuesday, 25 June 2013



Grau (Grey): Gerhard Richter, 1974, oil on canvas, 250 x 195 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

If you stand before a blank wall
and open your eyes as wide as you can
you will see nothing.
Believing the lies
is always exactly
that easy. It's known as playing the game.

This is not a game of the blind lead the blind.
On the other side of the wall
which was not after all a wall
but an artificial barrier of darkened glass
they're watching. And now the light grows

almost bright enough to blind.

Erschossener 1 (Man Shot Down 1): Gerhard Richter, 1988, oil on canvas. 100 x 140 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

Rot-Blau-Gelb (Red-Blue-Yellow): Gerhard Richter, 1972, oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

Erschossener 2  (Man Shot Down 2)
: Gerhard Richter, 1988, oil on canvas. 100 x 140 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

Rot-Blau-Gelb (Red-Blue-Yellow): Gerhard Richter, 1973, oil on canvas, 98 x 92 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)

Rot-Blau-Gelb (Red-Blue-Yellow): Gerhard Richter, 1972, oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm (Gerhard Richter Art)


Wooden Boy said...

With Richter, you could easily stay with those surfaces, passing over the strategies, the troubling questions he places there.

Maybe it's best not to look too hard; the wizard past the curtain is no bumbling cut-price medicine man.

TC said...


Those two "political" paintings might at first seem anomalous in the larger context of Richter's work. Then again -- maybe not. "Political" typically connotes 'Hot". But Richter is not so much a "cool" painter as a cold one. Those two paintings are about as cold as art can get, this side of a morgue or mausoleum.

"The two Gerhard Richter paintings entitled Man Shot Down 1 and 2 depict the dead Andreas Baader, who was arrested as a co-founder of the terrorist organisation Red Army Faction (RAF) in June 1972. The pictures are based on police photographs capturing the circumstances after the discovery of the RAF suicides in Stuttgart-Stammheim prison on 18th October 1977.

"Andreas Baader, lying diagonally on the floor, fills the landscape-format canvas of Man Shot Down 1. While his right arm lies against his body, his left arm is splayed out to one side. Baader's neck appears overextended, his mouth slightly open. Blood from Andreas Baader's head stains the floor. The weapon and the other objects lying scattered around Baader's head are difficult to discern in Richter's painting. The terrorist's black trousers are in stark contrast to his pale face and the white objects near his head, which stand out from the grey floor.

"Whereas the first painting is similar to the original photograph because of the selected detail and a moderate blur, in Man Shot Down 2 the stronger blurring causes Baader to appear otherworldly. The boundaries between figure and background are blurred. Baader's face can no longer be identified without any further information. The viewer's angle seems to have changed slightly, and despite greater enlargement, no additional information can be detected.

"In both versions of the painting, the splayed-out arm in particular indicates the death of the depicted person, illustrating the loss of control of one's own limbs. This posture recalls, for example, depictions of the Pietà or Jacques-Louis David's history painting The Death of Marat. Such art historical references underline the role of death within the cycle of paintings.

"Gerhard Richter describes his creative process in the series as follows: 'The ones that weren't paintable were the ones I did paint. The dead. To start with, I wanted more to paint the whole business, the world as it then was, the living reality – I was thinking in terms of something big and comprehensive. But then it all evolved quite differently, in the direction of death. And that's really not all that unpaintable. Far from it, in fact. Death and suffering have always been an artistic theme.' (Conversation with Jan Thorn-Prikker concerning the '18 October 1977', 1989 in: Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 227)

"Gerhard Richter's paintings of the dead RAF members caused critical reactions, as did the publication of the source photographs in the German magazine Stern in October 1980. However, the reactions differ from each other according to Richter: 'I'd say the photograph provokes horror, and the painting – with the same motif – something more like grief. That comes very close to what I intended.' (Conversation with Jan Thorn-Prikker concerning the '18 October 1977', 1989, p. 229) Gerhard Richter's artistic adaptation creates a distance from the events and enables the beholder to reflect on the terrorists' deaths on a judgement-free level, without taking sides." -- from Richter's website

Hazen said...

In that darkened glass, some people, suspecting nothing, see only their reflections. The first Richter—so murky, is perfect here. Leonardo sized up the situation nicely: “All men can be divided into three types: those who see; those who see when they are shown; and those who do not see.”

TC said...

Talking of cold... I've been wondering what response art might be expected to offer, in the present extremely bizarre and confusing and scarily fateful political moment, if that's not too grand a name for this current farce of high-drama thrills and perils of Pauline and twitter absurdities and cube hotels and and legitimate fear and aporia at every turn. The poor old tired horse of liberty long gone well after after the barn door was locked, and We Who Are About To Update Our Facebook Page didn't want to know what was going on out in the stables, thanks very much!

But sometimes, "just chill," doesn't quite do it.

TC said...

Hazen, we spoke at the same time.

But you've said it better. Not the first time!

Marie W said...

Blindness by blanking, blindness by blinding, blindness by blurring, blindness by having a beautifully colourful pattern in front of our eyes. I am sitting in front of that pattern every day.
A great poem, Tom. it's easy to play the game, yes, and with eyes wide open.

Hazen said...

“We Who Are About To Update Our Facebook Page.” So funny and yet so sad. As one tortured mercilessly for nigh onto a week by a feral SmartPhone mob, among whom number friends and loved ones, I too am aghast at the mindless addiction to electronica. It’s another form, literally, of blindness, despite all the “info” at hand.

Ed Baker said...

they're just starving the best part of their mind.... and getting obese in the process... or as W.B. Yeats put "it":

People who lean on logic
and philosophy and rational
exposition end by starving
the best part of the mind

as for the Electronica Mob ? :

nothing much ever happens in a crowd.... ever.

TC said...

Thanks all... and as we can't help but have the old and honourable art of whistleblowing in mind these days, perhaps we might wish to consider its venerable and salutary pre-electronic history:

Charles Murray: The Whistle

Nin Andrews said...

I love this poem. I feel as if sometimes I try to be blind. To say it takes effort is laughable.



If you stand before a blank wall
and open your eyes as wide as you can
you will see nothing. . .

Richter's man on the ground sees nothing, nothing but fog around here these days (not to mention all that rain)


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, bird slanting toward pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

“yesterday” no matter where,
“shaking all the time”

after all, defined in terms
of it, but as against

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

it was the firesign theatre:

"Oh blinding light/ Oh light that blinds/ I cannot see/ Look out for me!"

and on the other hand in one of his books idries shah spoke about how the blinding illumination of some mystical experiences is blinding to the recipient because he/she lacks the capacity to fully process it - had they been further developed/less "raw" they would have gotten something more out of it

and speaking of blindness, here's my added verse to The Blind Men and the Elephant, in context:

Six Blind Men & the Elephant

from John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)
A Hindu Parable

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, “Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope.
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

The Seventh blind man, staff in hand,
Upon his bare feet goes.
“I clearly sense”, he calmly said,
“And think that all should know
The elephant is warm and squishy
In between the toes.”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen.