Like Schwarz Rot Gold I (1998), this print is a rare example of Richter’s forays into sculpture. Known largely for his photorealist ‘blur’ paintings, such as Elisabeth II (1966) and Kerze (1988), and his large-scale abstract paintings, such as Abstraktes Foto (1989) and Abstraktes Bild (P1) (1990), Richter places German Vergangenheitsbewältigung at the heart of this image. Markedly less ambiguous than his ghostly ‘photo paintings’, such as Wolke Cloud (1971), its straightforward treatment of the German tricolour flag is nonetheless rich with the artist’s deconstructive, enigmatic touch, product of his sustained interest in the legacies of Germany’s turbulent, traumatic history. Richter tackled this theme most famously in his 1988 series 18. Oktober 1977, which deals with the traumatic legacy of Rote Armee Fraktion (or Baader Meinhof Gang) - a terrorist group active in West Germany during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Richter’s Schwarz, Rot, Gold commission is not the first time that Richter has been commissioned to create large-scale public art. In 2007, he created a stained-glass window for Cologne Cathedral - one of the largest religious buildings in the world. This commission saw Richter depart entirely from religious themes, opting rather for a grid-like formation of 11,500 ‘pixels’ - a stand-in for the ‘non-representational nature of the Divine’. In 2017, Richter gifted the German Reichstag an abstract triptych painting entitled Birkenau. This work is a visual tribute to the victims of the largest concentration camp run by Nazi Germany - Auschwitz-Birkenau.