Gerhard Richter. 18. Oktober 1977

Gerhard Richter: October 18, 1977

Galerie Neue Meister, Albertinum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, Germany

19 March 2005 - 02 January 2006

painting_title_en

Gegenüberstellung 3
Confrontation 3

1988 112 cm x 102 cm Catalogue Raisonné: 671-3

Oil on canvas

The three paintings entitled Confrontation 1 to 3 [CR: 671/1-3] depict Gudrun Ensslin, a German terrorist of the Red Army Faction (RAF). The paintings are based on photographs that were taken after the detention of Ensslin on 7th June 1972 in the prison of Essen. The Heidelberg based photographer Franz Ruch had reproduced them, as other police photographs, for the magazine stern[1]. The label with the number 1 that Ensslin holds in her hands in the original photograph indicates that the subject is a police lineup. For the painterly execution Richter chose three of the four photographs and trimmed them heavily: While the photographs show full-body shots, the paintings focus on the head and upper body of Gudrun Ensslin and are executed approximately life-sized. Any information that could indicate the situation are completely obscured[2]. Richter himself described the paintings as “… neutral (almost like pop stars).“[3]

 

The affiliation of the paintings is made clear by the coherent formats and the similar painting technique but there are also differences. The first painting [CR: 671-1] appears to be the least distinct because the contrasts are less elaborate, and Richter’s characteristic blurring is more pronounced. The second painting [CR: 671-2] shows the smiling face of Ensslin, clearer than the first one. On the third image [CR: 671-3] Ensslin’s gaze is cast down, the black hair and the dark clothing appear more serious and sober than in the preceding paintings.   

 

The sequential paintings, remindful of a film sequence, create a moving impression that is underlined by Richter’s blurring[4]. The immanent movement pushes the viewer into the position of a witness and it becomes clear that these paintings, stronger than any of the others, only reach their full potential as a series[5].

 

Especially on the first painting of the series the horizontal blurring recalls photographic motion blurs. Compared to other works in the cycle however the images appear to be more focused and use more contrasts, unlike the series showing the dead terrorists that become increasingly blurry. Thus, the not depicted suicide is alluded to without explicitly having to show it. The imagery suggests her impending death while simultaneously contradicting it by creating a movement and connection between the three paintings[6]. This is emphasized by the lighting that always comes from the right while the left side lies in shadows, effectively making Gudrun Ensslin move from dark to light[7]. Nonetheless, especially the last painting showing Ensslin with her bowed head gives an impression of hopelessness and hints at her fate that has already been decided and that she is walking to meet now[8].

 

The title not only refers to the circumstances of the police lineup but also hints at the confrontation between Ensslin and the viewer. Richter seeks a meeting of the observer and the human Gudrun Ensslin, not the terrorist and is therefore working to involve the viewer in the events. Ensslin appears to be open-minded and almost likeable reacting spontaneously to the people observing her. Knowing about her past (and future) creates a complex web of ambiguous feelings that Richter also acknowledged in an interview: “… at the time I had no sympathy for the ideas, or for the ideology that these people represented. I couldn’t understand, but I was still impressed. Like everyone, I was touched.”[9] This inherent fascination while still condemning the actions of the RAF can be perceived especially well in these three images. It becomes clear that contradictions and ambiguities are central parts of the human existence and that nobody, not even the viewer, stands above them. Rather the observer is invited to identify with Ensslin while examining the paintings and their intimate atmosphere, posing the question to what extent all of us would be capable of similar acts[10].



[1] Ortrud Westheider, “Eine Idee, die bis zum Tod geht. Der Zyklus 18. Oktober 1977“, in: Uwe M. Schneede (ed.), Gerhard Richter. Bilder einer Epoche, exh. cat. Bucerius Kunst-Forum, Munich, 2011, p. 159.

[2] Robert Storr (ed.), Gerhard Richter. October 18, 1977, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2000, pp. 106-107.

[3] Notes for a press conference, November-December (held at Museum Esters, Krefeld, February 1989), 1988 (translated by David Britt) in: Gerhard Richter. Text. Text, Writings and Letters 1961-2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 203.

[4] Storr 2000, p. 106.

[5] Kai-Uwe Hemken, Gerhard Richter 18. Oktober 1977, insel, Frankfurt/Leipzig, 1998, p. 68.

[6] Achim Borchardt-Hume, “’Dreh Dich nicht um’ – Richters Bilder aus den späten 1980er-Jahren“ in: Mark Godfrey, Nicholas Serota, Dorothée Brill, Camille Morineau (ed.), Gerhard Richter. Panorama, exh. cat. Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, Munich, 2012, p. 170.

[7] Martin Henatsch, Gerhard Richter – 18. Oktober 1977. Das verwischte Bild der Geschichte, Fischer, Frankfurt, 1998, p. 76-77.

[8] Birgit Richard, Todesbilder. Kunst, Subkultur, Medien, Wilhelm Fink, Munich, 1995, p. 233.

[9] Interview with Gregorio Magnani, 1989 in: Gerhard Richter. Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 221.

[10] Borchardt-Hume 2012, p. 170.

 

Notes prepared by editorial team

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Illustrated: p. 315 (b/w)

Exhibitions

Visions of Modern Art. Painting and Sculpture from the Museum of Modern Art Elderfield, John / Lowry, Glenn D. / Ganz, Sarah / Storr, Robert / Umland, Anne / Daftari, Fereshteh 2003

Publisher

DuMont, Köln

Details

Hardback , 420 pages

ISBN

9783832158484

Language

German

Category

Monographs
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 406, 425, 430
Discussed: pp. 122, 356, 366, 377

Illustrated: p. 370 (b/w)

Gerhard Richter has been widely regarded as a publicity shy artist. However, the biography Gerhard Richter, Maler gives an insight into Richter’s personal history as well as into the development of his artistic œuvre.

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Gerhard Richter, Maler Elger, Dietmar 2002

Publisher

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Details

Hardback Softcover , 340 pages

ISBN

189102437X

Language

English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Discussed: pp. 78
Illustrated: p. 211 (colour)

Exhibitions

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Gerhard Richter. 40 Years of Painting at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this publication represents a broad range of Gerhard Richter's paintings of the last 40 years.

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Gerhard Richter. Forty Years of Painting Storr, Robert 2002

Publisher

Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit

Details

Hardback , 340 pages

ISBN

9783775711692

Language

German

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 78
Illustrated: p. 211 (colour)

Exhibitions

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Gerhard Richter. 40 Years of Painting at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this publication represents a broad range of Gerhard Richter's paintings of the last 40 years.

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Gerhard Richter. Malerei Storr, Robert 2002

Publisher

Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

Details

Hardback , 79 pages

ISBN

388375479X

Language

English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 6

Exhibitions

The catalogue Gerhard Richter. Survey accompanies the eponymous exhibition of the German Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IfA), which has been composed by Gerhard Richter himself.

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Gerhard Richter. Survey Schwarz, Dieter / Zeller, Ursula / Adriani, Götz 2001

Publisher

Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

Details

Hardback , 80 pages

ISBN

3883754161

Language

German

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 6

Exhibitions

The catalogue Gerhard Richter. Übersicht accompanies the eponymous exhibition of the German Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IfA), which has been composed by Gerhard Richter himself.

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Gerhard Richter. Übersicht Schwarz, Dieter / Zeller, Ursula / Adriani, Götz 2000

Publisher

Richter Verlag, Düsseldorf

Details

Hardback , 340 pages

ISBN

9783933807045

Language

English

Category

Monographs
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 32

This catalogue raisonné of Gerhard Richter's drawings encompasses works in pencil, India ink, ballpoint pen, and other drawing media, on both paper and canvas since 1964.

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Gerhard Richter. Drawings 1964-1999. Catalogue Raisonné Schwarz, Dieter / Pelzer, Birgit 2000

Publisher

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Details

Hardback , 151 pages

ISBN

0870700235

Language

English

Category

Solo Exhibitions

Notes

An additional German translation of Robert Storr's essay accompanies this publication published on the occasion of an exhibition "Gerhard Richter. October 18, 1977" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Artwork Mentioned: pp. 141
Discussed: pp. 96, 106-107

Illustrated: p. 13 (b/w)

Exhibitions

On October 18, 1977, three young German radicals, members of the militant Baader-Meinhof group, were found dead in a Stuttgart prison; they were pronounced suicides, but many people suspected they had been murdered.

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Gerhard Richter. October 18, 1977 Storr, Robert 2000

Publisher

Gli Ori, Prato

Details

Softcover , 205 pages

ISBN

8887700079

Language

Italian English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 13, 14, 27, 166, 171, 176, 181, 182
Discussed: pp. 21, 34, 35, 167, 177

Exhibitions

Gerhard Richter Corà, Bruno / Buchloh, Benjamin H. D. / Chevrier, Jean Francois / Moscati, Italo 1999

In

Parachute

Issue

01 January 1999 , No. 93 , p. 21 - 27

Language

French

Category

Essays
Artwork
L'image-événement. Représentations de la terreur dans l'œuvre de Willie Doherty et de Gerhard Richter Lavoie, Vincent 1999

Publisher

Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt a. M.

Details

Softcover , 172 pages

ISBN

345833937X

Language

German

Category

Monographs
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 64, 71
Discussed: pp. 67-68

Illustrated: p. 69 (b/w)
Gerhard Richter, 18. Oktober 1977. Eine Kunst-Monographie Hemken, Kai-Uwe 1998

Publisher

Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit

Details

Hardback , 153 pages

ISBN

3775791000

Language

English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 148

Exhibitions

Designed by the artist himself, this publication gives a rare insight into one of the most intensive work periods (1995–1996) of Richter’s life.

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Gerhard Richter. 100 Pictures Obrist, Hans Ulrich / Pelzer, Birgit / Tosatto, Guy 1996

Publisher

Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit

Details

Hardback , 311 pages

ISBN

3893228608

Language

English German

Category

Group Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 36, 46

Exhibitions

Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Arnulf Rainer. Sammlung Frieder Burda = Collection Frieder Burda Poetter, Jochen / Brehm, Margrit / Möckel, Birgit 1996

Publisher

Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit

Details

Hardback , 153 pages

ISBN

3893228519

Language

German

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 150

Exhibitions

Designed by the artist himself, this publication gives a rare insight into one of the most intensive work periods (1995–1996) of Richter’s life.

...
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Gerhard Richter. 100 Bilder Obrist, Hans Ulrich / Pelzer, Birgit / Tosatto, Guy 1996

Publisher

Anthony D'Offay, London

Details

Softcover , 60 pages

ISBN

0947564667

Language

German English

Category

Monographs

Notes

The book is published in a limited edition of 1000 copies that are signed by the artist.

Artwork Mentioned: pp. 5, 6, 58, 59

Exhibitions

This limited edition reproduces in facsimile each of the twenty-three Richter works executed on pages of the book Stammheim. Der Prozess gegen die Rote Armee Fraktion by Pieter H. Bakker Schut

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Stammheim. Gerhard Richter Seymour, Anne 1995

Publisher

Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Nürnberg

Details

Softcover , 24 pages

ISBN

3928342215

Language

German

Category

Group Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 8

Exhibitions

Aus der Sammlung. Nach 25 Jahren Grisebach, Lucius / Braunsberg, Günter 1992

Publisher

Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Editor

Ammann, Jean-Christophe / Präger, Christmut

Details

Softcover , 137 pages

ISBN

3882704640

Language

German English

Category

Collections
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 55
Discussed: pp. 48
Illustrated: p. 20 (colour)
Museum für Moderne Kunst und Sammlung Ströher 1991

Publisher

Tate Publishing, London

Details

, 144 pages

ISBN

9781854370846

Language

English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork
Illustrated: p. 36 (b/w)

Exhibitions

Gerhard Richter Rainbird, Sean / Severne, Judith 1991

Publisher

Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

Details

Softcover , 64 pages

ISBN

3883751413

Language

German

Category

Monographs
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 16, 46

Illustrated: p. 15 (b/w)
Zu Richters Oktober-Bildern Butin, Hubertus 1991

Publisher

Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Details

Softcover , 166 pages

ISBN

9069180464

Language

Dutch English

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 161
Discussed: pp. 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41
Illustrated: p. 81 (colour)

Exhibitions

Gerhard Richter 1988/89 Schampers, Karel / Tilroe, Anna / Buchloh, Benjamin H. D. 1989

Publisher

Verlag Fred Jahn, München

Details

Hardback , 236 pages

Language

German

Category

Solo Exhibitions
Artwork Mentioned: pp. 10

Exhibitions

Gerhard Richter: Atlas Zweite, Armin 1989

In

Du. Die Zeitschrift der Kultur

Issue

01 January 1989 , Vol. 49 , No. 2 , p. 99

Publisher

Du Kulturmedien, Zürich

ISBN

0012-6837

Language

German

Category

Newspaper Articles
Read Article

Notes

Reprinted in 'Presseberichte zu Gerhard Richter '18. Oktober 1977''.

Artwork Discussed: pp. 99
18. Oktober 1977 Ammann, Jean-Christophe 1989

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