Daniel Richter: Denver Art Museum

By MacMillan, Kyle | Artforum International, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Daniel Richter: Denver Art Museum


MacMillan, Kyle, Artforum International


With the turn of the twenty-first century, painting boldly reasserted itself in German art, which for a decade had been dominated by photographers such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth. Among those leading the country's latest burst of painters is Daniel Richter, whose work is being showcased (through January 11) in a midcareer survey at the Denver Art Museum. Richter's first solo museum exhibition in the United States is a modification of a show organized in 2007 at the Hamburger Kunsthalle by Christoph Heinrich, who became the Denver Art Museum's curator of modern and contemporary art later that year.

Richter often packs so much stylistically and narratively into his paintings that they seem on the verge of exploding. But he manages to hold all the competing elements in balance, with the ever-present hint of instability only injecting frisson to his electric compositions. Having begun painting in 1995, he focused at first on producing colorful, kinetic abstractions. But in recent years, he has developed a distinctive brand of semi-abstracted figuration, and in doing so has garnered an international reputation.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Narratives (some explicit, but most stubbornly elusive) run through these theatrical scenes, which evoke an array of moods from the mystical to the malevolent. Richter draws from myriad sources, including dreams, comic books, newspaper and magazine photographs, and painting from centuries past (the reclined pose of the central figure in Ferbenlaare, 2005, for example, is borrowed from Carl Spitzweg's Der Arme Poet [The Poor Poet], 1839).

Clearly reveling in the manipulation of paint, Richter employs a dazzling range of applications, such as translucent washes, supple drips, and unconventional masking, and, as Heinrich notes in the catalogue, frequently produces flashes of bold color mimicking strobe lights and thermal imagery. …

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