Gerhard Richter - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 17, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Hubertus Butin 66

  • Catalogue Essay

    The translucent light of a single, flickering candle demands an emotional response. Feelings of serenity, hope, even determination are irrevocably twinned with an undercurrent of isolation, evoking the mourning and nostalgia of remembrance. We are drawn into the image by all that the candle has symbolised in the media, in the muscle memory of repeated religious traditions, and in art history.

    Dutch painters of the 17th Century employed the image of the candle (particularly the extinguished candle) to draw attention to the fleeting nature of mortality - the impermanence and futility of all earthly things. However, the candle was rarely depicted by itself. More often the image was accompanied by a host of other symbols, skulls, hourglasses, withered flowers and rotting fruit, which combined created the Vanitas allegory.

    Richter does away with the additional props that create this moralising visual tableau. His application of black oil paint with a squeegee over the top of the photomechanical image quite literally wipes away the detritus of this allegory, denying and (by the very nature of negation) alluding to the wider visual history that this image occupies.

    However, Richter is asking more of the viewer than simply to infer the allegorical meaning of the candle’s depiction. In Kerze II, two different layers of reality engage on one sheet of paper. The figurative realism of the candle against the abstraction of the oil paint are opposing positions that Richter playfully asks the viewer to turn on their head. The candle is an illusion, a reproduction of a painting, a fictive image - the oil paint however, is real in a physical way, tangible on the paper, a thickly applied obstruction between us and the image.
    Kerze II exemplifies the fundamental ambivalence towards abstraction and figuration, to appearance and reality that underpins Richter’s approach to image-making. What is an image? This is the question that Kerze II asks of us, and that Richter has repeatedly asked of his viewer throughout his œuvre.

  • Artist Biography

    Gerhard Richter

    German • 1932

    Powerhouse painter Gerhard Richter has been a key player in defining the formal and ideological agenda for painting in contemporary art. His instantaneously recognizable canvases literally and figuratively blur the lines of representation and abstraction. Uninterested in classification, Richter skates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike. 

    Richter's color palette of potent hues is all substance and "no style," in the artist's own words. From career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in short intervals. Richter's illusory paintings find themselves on the walls of the world's most revered museums—for instance, London’s Tate Modern displays the Cage (1) – (6), 2006 paintings that were named after experimental composer John Cage and that inspired the balletic 'Rambert Event' hosted by Phillips Berkeley Square in 2016. 

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Kerze II (Candle II)

Uniquely applied black oil paint by squeegee over offset print in colors, on white offset cardboard coated with clear, glossy nitro varnish, mounted on white plastic board (as issued), the full sheet.
S. 35 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (90.2 x 90.2 cm)
Signed and dated in pencil on the front, and signed, dated and numbered 'II/IX' in black felt-tip pen on the reverse (there were also 50 in Arabic numerals), published by Achenbach Art Edition, Düsseldorf, framed.

$60,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $125,000

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 17 October 2017