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March 1999

Gerhard Richter - his Atlas on Display

Description of exhibtion by Gerhard Richter

Through mid-April Lenbachhaus Kunstbau will be exhibiting the work of Gerhard Richter, one of the most internationally reknown painters of post-war Germany. Some visitors may already be familiar with some of Richter’s exhibited paintings, yet almost certainly not in connection with Der Atlas, 1962-1997. Der Atlas is neither a collection of maps, nor a book, nor even a painting of an atlas. Rather, it can best be described as Richter’s own "map of ideas," a kind of ongoing visual resource journal. At present, it contains more than 650 individually framed works, mostly photographs, newspaper clippings, sketches and collages, which the artist has collected or assembled over the last thirty-five years. Displayed in a documentary-like fashion, these images reveal the thousands of inspirational sources behind Richter’s paintings. Many of the Atlas panels are hung to contrast professional photographs with amateur ones. There is a panel that contains a newspaper clipping which shows a lion eating a man alive. The man had stepped out of his car in a safari park to get a close-up picture of some lions, and as the lions ate him other people sat in their cars and photographed the scene. In 1974 Stern ran these photos. Richter painted works based on these pictures, blurring the images so as to make the gruesome details indiscernible. Other panels contain portraits of famous writers, composers and philosophers; fashion and erotic photos, amateurish vacation snaps, aerial views of cities, mountain ranges, seascapes, roads, clouds, sunsets, floral still-lifes, babies, political figures and concentration camp victims. The assembly of images makes Der Atlas a fascinating work of art in its own right. In looking at the panels, it is clear to the viewer that Richter pondered many heavy topics while creating them – Why are we here? What is life all about? What kind of people take photographs while a man is being eaten alive? Der Atlas und seine Bilder can be glimpsed through a large window on the upper level of the Königsplatz U-Bahn station. But don’t settle for a glimpse. Lenbachhaus Kunstbau, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus München Dec. 16 - Apr. 11, 1999, Hours: Tue. through Sun., 10-16. <<< Jane milosch

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