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Gerhard Richter: Mao - Signed Print

Signed Print

Gerhard Richter


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Photographic print, 1968
Signed Print Edition of 500

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Critical Review

Mao is Richter at his best. Made after a painting completed by the artist in 1968, and one of two depicting Chinese commmunist leader Mao Zedong, this print is rooted in photography and post-war media culture. Like the acclaimed Elisabeth II, it is a ghostly portrait that makes use of what many have dubbed the ‘blur’ effect - a highly-mechanical way of painting that Richter uses to mirror the granular, technological images created  by cameras. By the 1960s, fuelled by his past  and his brightly-coloured present, Richter founded the cheekily-named Capitalist Realism group - an art collective that sought to depict the new,  commodity-orientated West Germany. In Mao, Richter dabbles with the Chinese politician’s portrait in a way that predates that of Warhol and Lichtenstein.

In the 1960s, Richter’s life changed irrevocably. In 1961, the artist and his young family escaped from what was then the German Democratic Republic, or East Geermany, later settling in the affluent West German city of Düsseldorf. Instituting a dramatic shift from the Soviet, commuinist sphere of influence, on the one hand, to the newly-founded Bundesrepulik Deutschland - or ‘West Germany’ - on the other, this move came just weeks before the building of the Berlin Wall. Allowing Richter to leave his strict, socialist realist training at the Dresden Academy behind, the artist’s escape introduced him to post-war capitalism, its often aggressive culture of advertising, and the avant-garde - to which he had first been exposed as a visitor to the documenta II exhibition in 1959. This exhibition, held in the Western city of Kassel, comprised works by the likes of Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.

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