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Indepth Arts News:

"Gerhard Richter: Eight Gray"
2002-10-11 until 2003-01-05
Guggenheim Museum, Berlin
Berlin, , DE

From October 11, 2002 to January 5, 2003 Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin presents its eighth and most recent commissioned work for the exhibition hall at Unter den Linden. Gerhard Richter’s Eight Gray continues the series of commissions begun in 1998 with a work by James Rosenquist, and followed by collaborations with Andreas Slominski, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lawrence Weiner, Jeff Koons, Rachel Whiteread and Bill Viola. Following Richter’s recent and celebrated retrospective - which was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York this spring and coincided with the artist’s 70th birthday, the exhibition in Berlin honors Richter in his native Germany.

Consisting of eight enameled glass panels, Eight Gray addresses themes the artist has been investigating since the mid-1960s in his monochromes and works in glass. Mounted on steel supports and hanging 50 centimeters from the wall, the enormous panels of Eight Gray (measuring 500 x 270 cm each) exist somewhere between painting, sculpture, and architecture. Installed in relation to the gallery windows—which were uncovered for the installation and replaced with clear glass panels—the opposing rows of colored mirrors produce an endless sequence of reflections of interior and street views, confusing pictorial and actual space.

For Berlin Richter has expanded the size of the panels to more truly resemble architectural elements. His choice of gray, the "non-color" that he equates with nothingness, further denies the possibilities for association, differentiation, or interpretation. Yet, as Richter has noted, "I know no painting that is not illusionistic….the [Gray Pictures] are the most rigorously illusionistic of all." Eight Gray amplifies this apparent dichotomy. At once opaque and reflective, the work is simultaneously abstract and figurative, presenting a monochromatic field as well as a likeness of the viewer and his or her surroundings.

Like his earlier, blurred photo-based paintings, which made reference to half-captured passing moments, the tinted panels of Eight Gray reflect a shadowy, perpetually shifting image. As spectators move in and out of the picture plane, they re-create the random cropping of a snapshot, adding a heightened element of chance. Continuously transforming, the mirrors reproduce the always fleeting moment in front of us and thus remain open, boundless. Though monumental in scale, this series of identical, individual panels surprisingly resists a single coherent vision. Instead Eight Gray presents the multiple possibilities and fractured images that more closely imitate our relationship with the real. Confounding traditional expectations by replacing an image with the viewer’s likeness, Richter’s mirrored panels emphasize the viewer’s individual perceptions, rejecting a predetermined program or collective, unified experience.

Curated by Benjamin Buchloh, distinguished art historian and Professor at Barnard College / Columbia University, New York, the exhibition will be accompanied by the hardcover publication Gerhard Richter: Eight Gray with an essay by Buchloch. The text focuses on the commission and related glass and monochrome works. It is available in German or English at a price of Euro 29.

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