Wednesday, July 31, 2013

painting in twilight...

one of the most exciting body of works in lacma's hans richter exhibition is a series of strange wonky paintings and drawings done under the rubric of "visionary portraits" or "visionary self portraits". these look quite a bit like german expressionist portraits, but they somehow feel stranger, less guided. at first glance, they seemed connected to the paintings of composer/painter arnold schoenberg. the wall text for the visionary portraits (i believe that the word 'visionary' was richter's), reveals that richter painted these works at twilight - a time when colors were 'indistinguishable', where the light and atmosphere would put him into 'a sort of auto-hypnotic trance... thus the picture took shape before the inner, rather than the outer, eye.'

i have to say this whole story kind of floored me - and of course, i was excited to see this idea of limited vision or limiting one's technical facilities as a huge precedent in finding ways to explore a more creative way of articulation... and in richter's case it seemed to be less looking and more groping.

with schoenberg's paintings, i believe that they look the way that they look because of necessity. i don't think schoenberg was trained in painting (although he was very much immersed in making them); and his paintings fall somewhere historically between an outsider artist (in relation to the historical term), and an amateur - thus the visionary nature of his work is an artifact of being a ham-fisted painter.  richter's visionary portraits, on the other hand, were experiments against tradition, not just against traditional visual languages, but against the tradition of how one makes a painting (i.e. dimming the light is probably not an ideal situation for working with color. )

what really shocked me, even more than the paintings themselves (which are freaking incredible), was richter's words around these paintings... i mean you don't usually hear a dada artist speaking about the inner eye, a trance and the visionary realm very often.   


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