Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sufferings of Young Gerhard

photo: Hans Peter Schaefer
Corinna Beltz’s movie about Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Richter-Painting currently playing at Film Forum bears comparison to Hans Namuth’s famous film of Pollock and will likely elicit similar questions--about artistic product and process--to those raised by the Namuth film, when it was released in l950. Is the act of Richter moving his squeegee along the surfaces of the varying canvases that appear in the film where the art manifests itself (ie the artwork, like in “action painting,” being a memento of a creative act, that has already occurred) or does the talent and genius reside in the actual composition, the final product that goes out into the world? A side issue is Richter’s obvious interest in Hegelian dialectics, in being and becoming. His squeegee both creates and destroys and what looks finished is what has yet to be undone and conversely what appears to be inchoate turns into an essay on what is good, which Richter also equates with a morality that flies in the face of the estheticism we generally associate with abstraction in art. The Hegelian dialectics not only exist in in the inception of a singular work of art, but between paintings. “Each painting is an assertion that tolerates no company,” Richter comments. Whatever Richter is, an enigmatic Chauncey Gardiner figure to whom we attribute more than actually meets the eyes, or along with his contemporary Anselm Kiefer (the subject of another recent documentary, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow) one of the giants of our era is a discussion that none of the cast of characters who appear in the film, who include Marian Goodman, the Manhattan gallerista, Norbert Arms and Hubert Becker (his two assistants) and a number of internationally known museum directors are likely to entertain as they contribute to his hagiography. Richter, as the film  plainly shows, with its elaborate architectural models of the walls of upcoming exhibition venues, is an industry whose artistic pedigree is established with shots from an earlier film of his youthful self (despite his talk about painting being a secretive act, Richter is plainly not the withdrawn Kafkaesque figure he makes himself out to be) disclaiming theories of art like a character in a bildungsroman we might have called The Sufferings of Young Gerhard. However, unlike another painter industrialist named Damien Hirst, the film displays Richter as an artist who executes his own work.

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