Gerhard Richter: The Master of Unknowing

Susan Tallman at the NYRB:

Gerhard Richter: Group of People, 66 15/16 x 78 3/4 inches, 1965

Richter is contemporary art’s great poet of uncertainty; his work sets the will to believe and the obligation to doubt in perfect oscillation. Now eighty-eight, he is frequently described as one of the world’s “most influential” living artists, but his impact is less concrete than the phrase suggests. There is no school of Richter. His output is too quixotic, too personal, to be transferrable as a style in the manner of de Kooning or Rauschenberg. Though his influence has indeed been profound, it has played out in eyes rather than hands, shifting the ways in which we look, and what we expect looking to do for us.

In Germany he is treated as a kind of painterly public intellectual—personally diffident and professionally serious, a thoughtful oracle especially as regards the prickly territory of German history. He was among the first postwar German artists to deal with pictorial records of Nazism, and his approach to the past might be summarized as poignant pragmatism, rejecting both despair and amnesia.

more here.