Richter is my Yoda
I like that the name Yoda has become synonymous with understanding and wisdom, and I like using that as a name for those who live that. I've taught with several people in the past decade who have shown such a fundamental understanding of education that it only made sense for us to call them Yoda.
When I think about painting though, and influences, there can be only one. Gerhard Richter is my Yoda. He is the ultimate painting theorist. He's the quintessential postmodern painter. He operates with both a love for paint and a respect for it's inherent (and undiscovered) possibilites. And yes, after 30,000 years with a material, there can still be new things to do with it. It's amazing how he takes something as beautifully simple as paint and makes it new. When I look at his work it's like I'm staring at a new, undiscovered planet or something.
A few weeks ago I was at the St. Louis Art Museum and they had the most impressive room of Richter's work. Not only did they have some of his definitive photo paintings (like Betty) but they also 3 of his large abstractions from the late 80s. When I say large, I mean LARGE. Massive might be a better way of saying it. The three paintings November, December, and January occupy an entire wall, and fill the viewer's entire field of vision. It's like diving into the ocean, and feeling yourself getting swallowed up completely. I'm guessing that they are 10 feet tall, and collectively about 40 feet wide. And they're stunning. Though I know this won't come close to doing them justice, here's December:
He's not just a brilliant painter though, he understands paint, entirely. And he understands the practice of painting.
An example of the way this guy thinks:
One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks this passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is total idiocy. (From NOTES, 1973)
In terms of painting there can only be one Yoda...perhaps he'll take me as his padawan.