Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cincinnati art 3 -- comparison shopping

In the Cincinnati Art Museum I saw two paintings that reminded me of works by the same artists I had seen recently.  One I liked the Cincinnati work better, one I liked the work I had seen earlier better.

First the (relative) disappointment.  I've always loved Gerhard Richter, and was so happy to find several of his works on display in the museums I visited this summer in Germany. 

So last week I found a new Richter in Cincinnati, made last year; I haven't been to the museum in several months and this is the first time I've seen it.  It's from his Abstract Painting series.  He has made hundreds of these paintings, each of them heavily layered, scraped, overpainted, sanded away and reworked to show depths upon depths.  If you want to get a flavor of this body of work, click here and here and here and here.

I've seen several of these in the flesh, but this is the smallest, only about 20 inches wide.  Don't get me wrong, if you gave this to me I'd hang it in my living room in a nanosecond and love it forever.  But I didn't think it had the depth and richness of color of the painting I saw in Nürnberg. Nor the sheer impact of size: the Nürnberg picture was about four times bigger on each dimension than the Cincinnati one.

Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting (908-02), 2009  (Cincinnati Museum of Art)

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, (Abstract Picture) 1991  (Neues Museum, Nürnberg) 

The next pair of paintings comes from Sam Gilliam.  I wrote earlier this month about a new piece that was just acquired by the Speed Museum in Louisville.

In this pair, I like the Cincinnati version better. In the three years between these two paintings, Gilliam did away with stretcher bars and suspended his canvas from a single point on the wall. My only quibble with this method of display is that you only get to see half of the gorgeous surface, mostly composed of stains and drops rather than brushwork.

Sam Gilliam, Arch, 1971    (Cincinnati Museum of Art)  -- detail below
Sam Gilliam, Restore, 1968 (Speed Museum, Louisville)

Seeing this piece made me want to go home and put grommets into my quilts instead of hanging sleeves and sticks!  But I always have that thought upon visiting this piece, and have never yet managed to translate the thought into action.


  1. I'm with you on the Gerhard Richter, the monumental scale of the pieces are what blew me away in his series of 'Cage' paintings at Tate Modern. The associated book was great to see the process of making them but there's nothing to beat the experience of standing in a whole room of them.

  2. These are wonderful small works. The monumental scale of his other work is hard to compete with in a smaller size but interesting to compare.