gerhard richter’s iconic colour charts come to london

The painter’s earliest abstract experiments from the 60s are being re-united.

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03 August 2015, 1:00pm

Gerhard Richter, Fünfzehn Farben (Fifteen Colours) 1966-1996 © Gerhard Richter, 2015 Photo:Tom Powel Imaging, Inc.

50 years ago, Gerhard Richter was busy painting portraits in black and white, when he took a trip to a hardware store in Dusseldorf and came across a book of paint colour samples. Captivated by their minimalistic beauty, Richter was inspired to turn them into art works. Back at Richter's studio, fellow German minimalist artist Blinky Palermo would call out colours at random, which Richter would then paint in equal size squares and rectangles, mimicking the industrial colour switches.

Sample card for enamel paint from Ducolux 1963. Private Collection 

They reinvigorated abstract art, by tapping into pop's obsession with ready made and factory art — the Colour Charts all being variations on the same process, and a copy of a commercial tool. Before his untimely death at just 33, Blinky Palermo also introduced Gerhard to minimalism, which would have a marked impact on his painting, and also the direction of Western Europe art from then onwards.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of their painting, Dominique Lévy gallery in London is bringing together a selection of Gerhard Richter's original 19 Colour Charts, not seen together since their inaugural appearance in Munich in 1966.

Gerhard Richter, 180 Farben (180 Colours) 1971 © Gerhard Richter, 2015. Gerhard Richter Archiv, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Photo: David Brandt 

Eventually Richter would totally remove artistic choice from his work, choosing colours at random from a formula he'd worked out. These paintings were the first time Richter used colour in his work, and are important bridge between the worlds of abstract, minimal and pop art.

Gerhard Richter: Colour Charts, runs October 13, 2015 - January 16, 2016, at Dominique Lévy, 22 Old Bond Street, London 

dominique-levy.com