Monday, June 8, 2009

Wald by Gerhard Richter

It seems one can't move within a bookstore now a days without risk of knocking a new Gerhard Richter book off the shelf. One however caught my attention, Wald published this year by Walther Konig is more artist book than catalog and due to its smaller size you might not have noticed it.

For a few years, Richter has been photographing in a forest near his home in Cologne, Germany. 35mm in format the first impression might be that these are paintings. They follow some of his formal traits and the color palette and range of tone will seem familiar as well. A dense book of 285 photographs, all verticals, he loosely groups them into categories of form. Horizontal branches, vertical groupings, logs and fallen growth are framed into compositions where the line of branches reminds one of his swipes of the palette knife across his paintings.

What amazes me is that the vast number of images does not diminish their individual attraction over the course of the book. Interspersed are short texts which are, as I have read elsewhere, nonsensical passages chosen from forestry magazines and compiled via a random text generator. The text, perhaps like the forest itself, becomes most dense in the middle of the book and from start to end, it has a presence that fades in and fades out.

I wrote before about Richter's experiments with overpainting photographs and the idea of a ready-made artwork that is dependent on one action guided by instinct. That of course is photography itself and for the seeming casualness of these photographs, they actually reveal a maker so skilled and informed that each holds a unique appeal. Each solid yet testing different combination of form that risk repetition and failure.

Beautifully printed and in my opinion, the perfect size, Wald is a pleasant break from the many Richter books which I find so unsatisfying. Finally a return to examining an artist in full exploration relating to the world rather than just another catalog touting his greatness.