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Date: 11 Nov 2010
Time: 00:06:50 -0600
OK let me see if I can unpack this rather tightly woven thought. Firstly, this means, even in an extremely truncated form, as demonstrated, that a) there is a history to abstraction after Minimalism (although much fretted over by non-formalists (the End of Painting!), or cultural historians for about 30 years now) b) that this development lead firstly to Pattern and Decoration (P&D) in the 70s, (mainly in the US, but there are British examples) and c) that the modularity of P&D (the repeating motif, so to speak) also echoes the print sampling concerns that are, in essence, Pop Art. That Pop Art historically runs in parallel to Minimalism is commonly accepted - that they share fundamental concerns with INSTANCES and INCIDENCE to a work - is not. Polke's achievement was to straddle all three concerns, although, understandably this was not recognised at the time, since Pop Art in Germany came freighted with Socialist Realism implications (and essentially history painting) and stripped of Minimalism. At that time, Polke looked like he was making himself even more peripheral (even more German). Which, in a sense he was, but in a larger picture, he backs away from Pop Art, only to back into P&D – and its Minimalist freight. This would have been more evident if Germany had been into Minimalism, but it wasn’t nor did it warm to P&D. Blinky Palermo was probably as close as Germany got to Minimalism. It just doesn't attract much interest. Although, Germany has an impressive tradition of abstraction, pre and post-war. Maybe it was the Beuys influence (?). Anyway, understanding this context, casts a rather different light on Richter's trajectory into abstraction (and out again). His abstraction looks very 'old school' or conservative to Minimalist or Post-Minimalist tastes. It makes a very abstract point about his blurring or loss of focus, based on photographic print processes, (the metaphor is now one colour to another, one layer or gesture to another) but can't relate this to other issues in abstraction like the elaborate symmetries/asymmetries, system and diagram that have come to dominate the discourse on abstraction in painting. A grasp of this will be needed to radically revise our interpretation of Richter, to rescue him from the clutches of BB. That said, I think this is easier for an American critic like Storr, partly because Americans really don't know what to do with the art history they've made for themselves, through their rather stunted critical pantheon that starts with Greenberg and ends with Fried and then jumps ship for October and critical theory. They may have rejoiced in finally breaking away from Paris and a fine art culture centred on Europe, only to discover they've built a prison for themselves. It may be easier to kill two birds with one stone - revise their own recent art history through recognising the undeniable ascendance of a remarkable generation of Germans, Richter very much to the fore. It would be, as they like to say, a "win-win situation".