Domecke – [Cathedral Corner] (1987) by Gerhard Richter, via Gerhard Richter
Currently showing at the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentia, is an exhibition of works by German artist Gerhard Richter. The exhibit is titled Synopsis, and it includes a variety of works that span four decades. Richter is well-known for his photo-paintings and abstract pieces, both of which are on display. The title Synopsis is fitting; the museum called the exhibit “retrospective” and therefore indicative of Richter’s growth over the years.
Much of Richter’s work at the exhibit is political. October 18, 1977  is a series of photographs that depict the final moments of members of the German Red Army Faction, a left-wing group whose members purportedly committed suicide while in prison. Richter has said that these photographs record life “as it is.” His journalistic style in reporting these events shows that he values art not only or its aesthetic appeal, but also for its ability to document the past. Richter’s political influences extend to his nationality. Black, Red, Gold (1999) rests in the German parliament, and it is a slightly faded glass version of the official German flag.
Richter is well-known for his photo-paintings, works that are made using paint but based on photographs. One at the exhibit is Domecke – [Cathedral Corner] (1998). It is simultaneously detailed and unfocused; a white chunk of the building is almost too much, but it is balanced by a tree to one side and a brown brick façade on the other. It is a depiction that has seen three stages – it is adapted from the painting Cathedral Corner, which is a work that is based on another photograph taken by Richter at the Cologne Cathedral. In the past, Richter has had other ties to the cathedral; in August 2007, he revealed a stained glass window comprised of thousands of small pieces of glass. The piece is popular, despite criticism from some higher-ups in the Church.
Richter is not afraid to combine his work life with his personal. Betty (1991) is a depiction of his first daughter, another painting-based-on-a-photograph. His daughter is dressed in a long, red-and-white coat and a matching dress. Her face is completely turned away from the photograph, and only a bun on the back of her head is visible. This guarded, closed pose recalls four-year-old temper tantrums and stubborn refusal. But her outfit recalls anything but; it is sophisticated and mature, the picture of adulthood. It is almost as if Betty dressed carefully for the photograph, prepared for a portrait, but changed her mind at the last minute. Subjects for photographs tend to love the camera; this work, comparatively, reflects a tension between artist and model.
Born in 1932, Richter is known for his photo-paintings and abstract work. He reportedly began working with photographs so that he could “escape the complicated process of deciding what to paint.” His work has been featured internationally.
A work at the current exhibit by Gerhard Richter
- O. Loving
National Museum of Decorative Arts [National Museum]