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Signed Print Edition of 100
H 62cm x W 80cm
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Joe Syer, Head of Urban & Contemporary Art
Issued in 1990 and in an edition of 100, this signed lithograph print is the work of seminal German visual artist, Gerhard Richter. Entitled Besetztes Haus, or Squatter’s House, the piece is part of the War Cut collection and underscores Richter’s practice of using photographic images as references for his photorealistic paintings.
Based on a photograph taken from Richter’s Atlas - a vast assemblage of found images, newspaper cuttings, and family photographs - Besetztes Haus is a stunning image painted in a photorealistic style. Depicting the side of an apartment building in Richter’s home country of Germany, it is striking for its monochromatic palette as well as for its realism. To the right of the image, trees and shrubbery assume an abstract form that is nonetheless true to life; to its left, the ghostly outline of an apartment building speaks to Richter’s skill at portraying light and shadow. Despite its subject matter - a squatter’s house - the image sees Richter refrain from political or ideological commentary - something he has often done in the past, having grown up surrounded by both Nazism and Communism. Rather, the artist observes the material reality of the world around him, portraying it as it is.
Richter’s Atlas makes reference to a central figures in European art history: Aby Warburg. Born in the late 19th century, Warburg invented a new way of looking at art and images, which he dubbed ‘iconology’. Warburg’s ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’ - a large-scale study of art consisting of 40 panels, onto which were affixed around 1,000 images from newspapers, magazines, and books - was arranged thematically in as diverse categories. These included ‘coordinates of memory’, ‘vehicles of tradition’ and ‘archaeological models’. With his own Atlas, Richter constructs a similar assemblage of images that refer to historical events, such as the rise of Mao in China and the Holocaust, as well as key moments in his personal life.