Idiom Post-medium: Richter Painting Photography
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While German artist Gerhard Richter cannot be held solely responsible for the circumstances that give rise to the unremarkableness of such an advertisement, as one of the first painters to take up a close dialogue with photography, and the most persistent of these, he is certainly at the centre of the reconfiguration of medium that it signals. In stark contrast to the medium-specificity of high Modernism, today, a great many art works are made using more than one medium. The changed relations between media in contemporary art have typically been discussed in terms of the development of hybrid media or, more recently still, as proof of a post-medium condition for art. Richter has drawn painting and photography together in his work since the 1960s (Fig. 1). Provocatively, he has claimed to paint photographs: 'I'm not trying to imitate a photograph; I'm trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means'.2 It is therefore easy to see Richter as having had a considerable influence on this outcome, as one of the artists who have brought about this post-medium condition. This impression is made all the stronger by the fact that many contemporary art works, both in painting and photography, superficially resemble Richter's work, so much so as to have occasioned the now familiar label of 'Richteresque'.3 While Richter should be understood as having had a marked impact upon art history, to see his work as pursuing hybrid media or in support of reading contemporary art according to a post-medium state is to misunderstand his role. Rather, Richter's very particular engagement with painting and photography emphasises the crucial role of medium in art as enabled by differences between media. His articulation of the relationship between painting and photography, achieved in large part through the complex economy of the photographic blur, has resulted in a critical inter-mediality that has prompted artists to address photography, painting, and the concept of medium in new ways. Contemporary artists, due in part to Richter's impact, but also in the broader context of a re-evaluation of medium in art, produce images according to a self-reflexive dialogue between media as opposed to working within a particular medium.
Oxford Art Journal
Copyright 2009 Oxford University Press. This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Oxford Art Journal following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version, Idiom Post-medium: Richter Painting Photography, Oxford Art Journal, Volume 32 (2), 2009, Pages 263-280] is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxartj/kcp020
Fine Arts (incl. Sculpture and Painting)