What is your highest hope

Dirk Schwarze: ... documenta ... artists ... exhibitions ...

In the heart of documenta 7, on the 1st floor of the Fridericianum Museum, directly in front of his pictures, the Düsseldorf painter Gerhard Richter yesterday received the Kassel Arnold Bode Prize, endowed with 10,000 DM. With this, not only was a clear and attractive setting chosen for the award, but the claim was also indirectly made to upgrade this award to a documenta award. After all, the namesake Arnold Bode was a co-founder and long-term engine of documerita.

Gerhard Richter, born in Dresden in 1932, has been one of the trend-setting German painters for two decades. And not because it shaped a style, but because it eluded any stylistic definition. In these 20 years he thought and painted far more radically and consistently in leaps in style than the painters of the new, wild generation were able to do.

Richter, who has long been a teacher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, always sought the role of the outsider, the opposite position: Known as the creator of photorealistic paintings, in documenta 5 (1972) he showed color plates that, as images, avoided any approach to an image. Ten years later, at documenta 7, he is presenting abstract pictures that, in their glaring colourfulness, focus solely on the application of paint and the random play of colors. These planned stylistic inconsistencies clearly characterize Richter's position: he does not use painting to use it as a medium and to represent something with its help, but instead uses it and its various design means to make painting itself an object.

The "exploratory painting about painting" is emphasized in the award certificate of the Arnold Bode Foundation. And with a view to the new works it is said that these "as so often, irritate the audience, critics and artist colleagues, provoke and finally make them think". Indeed, Richter is irritating, because he repeatedly produces beautiful images without referring to the ostensible beauty.

Karl Oskar Blase also referred in his laudation to the irritating elements in the painterly work. He sees in Richter an artist who makes use of dialectical means, whose painting sometimes disproves and sometimes confirms. Richter is an enlightener and a glorifier at the same time, an artist who has found the opportunity to continue painting after everything has been painted.

Kassel's Lord Mayor Eichel based the award winner's recognition on Richter's contribution to the documenta catalog, in which, among other things, he defines art as “the highest form of hope”. In his short word of thanks, Richter expanded on this statement: Art is the actual opposite of stupidity and violence.

HNA 9/23/1982

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