Gerhard Richter’s Atlas

17th November 2019

Take a look at Gerhard Richter’s Atlas: www.gerhard-richter.com/art/atlas/

You’ll see that Richter has placed together multiple images of a similar subject – a particular colour in the sky, similar types of buildings, trees and types of portrait. It’s called a typology.

OCA Foundations in photography Course Folder pg100

Typologynoun 1. a classification according to general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences.

I am no stranger to Gerhard Richter’s work as an artist and as a photographer. I remember going to his amazing retrospective at The Tate Modern in November 2011 which was titled, ‘Gerhard Richter Panorama and in fact I bought the accompanying book, (which I have read, has now been updated quite extensively.) Although Richter is multi-disciplinary in his work he often combines his photography with his painting work, which includes painting over his photographs. This link will take you to some examples of Richter’s Overpainted Photographs.

Edited by Godfrey and Serota (2011), Gerhard Richter – Panorama. London, Tate Publishing.

 Atlas is a collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and sketches, which Richter compiled and then arranged on single sheets of paper. It consists of 802 sheets and spans almost four decades.

“In the beginning I tried to accommodate everything there that was somewhere between art and garbage and that somehow seemed important to me and a pity to throw away.” Gerhard Richter.

Before I showed examples of Richter’s work I wanted to show images of his work in situation with each other within exhibition spaces. This to me gives a far better feel to a body of work than viewing them in isolation, and three examples can be seen below.

diaart.org photo Cathy Carver
gerhard-richter.com

I always find work when in an exhibition, breathtaking, exhilarating and exciting. I have been known to get so overwhelmed with the visual feast in front of me that I become hyperactive and even cry, the senses become over whelmed and I just cannot cope mentally – I literally buzz.

The way that Richter’s work in ‘Atlas’ has been pulled together and hung is very over stimulating even though the grids are quite uniformed the amount of visual information is quite intense.

To think that he had been collecting so much for so long and was sorting and grouping images into categories, the classification, also has my OCD tendencies for order, excited. Richter uses Atlas like a sketchbook where he collates his ideas, it is an archive of images and materials from 1945 to the present day.

The following images are a few of Richter’s works arranged in grid format. The subjects are very interesting and when grouped together on a sheet they become stronger.

Album photos, 1962-66, sheet 3. Photographs from newspapers and books, 1964-67, sheet 14. Brigid Polke, 1971, sheet 46. Photographic details of colour samples (design and installation plan for BMW), 1973, sheet 102. Cities, 1968, sheet 117.

I have only chosen five images as there are so many to choose from. What I really enjoyed looking through the work was the freshness of everything, in that, the way they are presented is so different. We have some in regular grid format which have been precisely placed while others have a more relaxed placing. Then we have those that have the masking tape still attached, these are the ones that I particularly like, it gives a different feel to the photographs, it transforms them from purposely presented images, to free form presentation, as though we are seeing them on an artists studio wall and they are part of a visual working method.

For me, having the subjects grouped together is very calming. I can and often do, find mixed subject images that are presented together distracting. There is something solid and final about presenting the same themed work, it is as though half of the deciphering is done for you and it is easier to think when presented with a theme of sim liar photographs. Again my brain works differently, so this might be a unique feeling which other people would actually think was quite sterile and boring.

What ever individuals get from this body of work the one thing that is always going to stand out is the sheer amount of collecting and categorising that has gone on. It is also an historical archive of images, people long deceased and art ideas for the now and then, as though there isn’t a time barrier and it is all woven together.

The Youtube video below,, although unfortunately is in German, shows the work ‘Atlas’ in detail at the exhibition in Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau.

For me watching the video and the works is better than seeing them in a book because you actually get to see how large the works are and how they are put together in the grid format. Very interesting to see the images as well as it shows many that aren’t easily found on the internet unless you access them through Gerhard Richter’s Atlas page on his website.

GerhardRichterVideos, 4th April 2012

If you have been reading other parts of my blog you should know how mad I am for books and research. There is a book for this series of work, titled ‘Atlas,’ however unfortunately this one is well out of my budget with prices anything from £600 to £1200 depending on which edition or publisher you are purchasing from. This is such a shame as I love looking at works like this in books. However I have found a book flip though on Youtube which can be seen below. Lasting 23 minutes with every page shown, you cannot get better than this if you cannot afford a book for your collection.

With the added videos above I have obtained a good overview of ‘Atlas’ and only when you research this series quite thoroughly you realise what a collection of images this really is, remarkable!


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