Richter’s first U.S. show in Denver

Posted 11/7/08

He enjoys rock star status in Europe, is well-recognized in the contemporary art world and has worked in a gallery in New York. His first American …

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Richter’s first U.S. show in Denver


He enjoys rock star status in Europe, is well-recognized in the contemporary art world and has worked in a gallery in New York. His first American museum exhibit, “Daniel Richter: a Major Survey,” is at the Denver Art Museum through Jan. 11.

Area art lovers will want to get acquainted with Richter, who has moved from early abstract works to large, technically extraordinary scenes that are often based on something he’s seen in the newspapers, magazines, internet. be it political (usually), based on art history (Munch, Goya for example), sourced from old comic books or… Sources of light may be something like a flashbulb, rather than the Impressionist’s natural light. Many paintings suggest a still from a film or stage production.

Paintings are dated from 1995 to 2008 and are arranged according to the artist’s wishes, not in chronological order, but with an eye to the viewer’s perspective in the spacious Anschutz Gallery, with its angled walls. Round a corner and a starling grouping may jump out and surprise you.

“Richter is a political artist,” said curator Christoph Heinrich. There’s always a political layer— but not not always about politics.” Often a solitary silhouetted figure with back to the viewer, looks at a group of people. In an Oct. 3 lecture, Richter commented “I think loneliness is the worst experience a man can have.” These solitary figures are indeed lonely as they observe.

Any subject is fair game and brilliant color and strong light elements draw a visitor into inventing a story. “Captain Jack,” (2006), for example, is pictured and suggests several stories: Heinrich said Captain Jack was a singer in Germany, who wore fantasy uniforms, a cliché of the black man in popular culture, dealing with racism and sexism. One critic saw Holocaust suggested in the skeletal faces. On another pop culture track, I’d include Johnny Depp as another Captain Jack, facing skeleton pirates in the popular film “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Titles are purposefully obscure, challenging the interpretive imagination.

Richter started studying art at 29 after a period of designing record jackets, playing rock music, and created his first painting at 32. “The (Berlin) wall came down— a cold wind was blowing through Europe… a failed life in the subculture didn’t work any more. He wanted to avoid the bourgeois life,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich, who was appointed as modern and contemporary curator at DAM in the past year, presented a similar Richter exhibit in 2007 while at his previous position at the Hamburg Kunsthalle.

Writing in “Art in America,” critic Raphael Rubenstein comments in a 2004 story about Richter: “Over the last 20 years, the most influential contemporary painters have been German… They live in a society in which, traditionally, culture has been held in high esteem… the German educational system recruits many of the nation’s best artists, paying them well and giving them plenty of time, while continuing their work while teaching… Germany’s particular history … has provided a wealth of material and a certain obligation…”

Reichert answered a post-lecture question about accidental elements in his paintings: “if people had always known what they are about, they would never had entered something new… I have been in groups, don’t want to be any more— nobody wants to be in my group, the product of a certain background.”

He is a teacher, now in Vienna. What can a teacher do to bring students into the world of art? He talks about music and literature…

“I try to be honest. I can teach method or attitude— not painting. Learn to understand different languages— then it’s up to you.”

Also new at the DAM:

“In Contemporary Rhythm: The art of Ernest L. Blumenschein” who organized the Taos Group of artists.

A recent rotation by Heinrich of the contemporary and modern galleries on third and fourth floor in the Hamilton Building, with a focus on the human figure through many eyes (including John DeAndrea’s “Linda,” a local favorite). Some of these works from the DAM collection have never been exhibited.

All of these exhibits are included in a general admission ticket. 720-865-5000, information:

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