Monday, Dec 28, 2020 at 10:00am
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Gerhard Richter: The Birkenau Paintings is a focused installation that brings together the four canvases of this landmark series alongside an earlier work in glass, Mirror, Blood Red (1991).
The German artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) has explored the material, conceptual, and historical implications of painting throughout his six-decade career. The Birkenau series (2014) encapsulates his long-standing interest in art's ability to reckon with issues of identity and collective memory, particularly in the context of post–World War II Germany. In the four paintings, Richter confronts the question of whether—and how—art is able to address the history of the Holocaust.
The Birkenau paintings are based on four photographs secretly taken in the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. After a yearlong attempt to render the photographic images, Richter gradually veiled his initial figurative drawings with color, scouring each coat of paint with a squeegee to produce layered, ruptured surfaces. The canvases' distinctive facture and relatively subdued palette reflect the artist's conscious struggle to address the grim documents of historical trauma while curtailing the spectacular nature of the reproduced photograph. Together, the series holds in tension the complex relationship between representation and abstraction, and the opposing forces of destruction and reconstruction.
Exhibition Date: September 5, 2020 - January 18, 2021
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 955
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