The Contradiction of Systematic Disparagement


Anyone who has taken an introductory course in art history will be familiar with the systematic disparagement that the holy receives from TAW*. Artists in TAW seem to earn the title ‘artist’ only after demonstrating mastery of several disciplines that include a code of conduct and an ethic of work that shuns reference and reverence to the sacred. German painter Gerhard Richter could be categorized in this way. Until now, that is.

Gerhard Richter has experienced a change of (he)art. Considered an important painter in the post-World War II era, Richter has come out, saying “I’m less antagonistic to ‘the holy’, to the spiritual experience, these days. It’s part of us and we need that quality.” Context for the artist’s statement relates to Richter’s commission to create a stained glass window for the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. His first designs depicted the Nazi execution of the innocents, with an illustrator’s figurative approach. Dissatisfied with his first trials, Richter returned to his earlier work, from the 1970s, when he was exploring abstraction, and based the design for the stained glass window on one of his color-field paintings, ‘4,096 Colors’, from 1974. The result is a blend of technology and tradition that embraces the colors of the traditional windows in the ancient gothic space while affirming the value of abstraction in approaching a reference and reverence for the holy.

Richter’s Pixelated Stained Glass has been named to the New York Times 2007 Annual Year in Ideas. Read more here

Images Spiegel Online

* Reference to TAW (The Art World) from A Broken Beauty, edited by Theodore Prescott, 2005, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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