Gerhard Richter is one of Germany’s foremost living visual artists. He is primarily known for his painting, but in this book we lay witness to his talents as a photographer.
In recent years, Richter has made headlines for breaking records at auction. He has broken the record for highest price at auction for an living artist 3 times since 2012.
One of his paintings – _Abstraktes Bild –_ sold for $44.52 million in February 2015 in London at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale. That remains the highest selling price for an artwork at auction by a living artist.
Wald is one of Richter’s lesser-known works. Despite that fact, it is recommended by Hans Ulrich Obrist – co-director of the Serpentine Galleries – as one of the 5 best books about contemporary art.
The book consists of 285 photographs taken by the artist in the woods next to where he lived in Cologne, Germany. It is divided thematically according to what the content contains. For example, some sections are divided by purely vertical segments of trees. Some by horizontal. Some sections are categorised by broken diagonal branches.
It also interweaves text taken from a forestry magazine. The text isn’t in a linear format though. It is randomised. It isn’t readable like normal text. And yet some of the words are recognisably tree-themed. This gives the reader a very peculiar sensation.
My personal feeling as I experienced the book was very pleasant. I felt almost as though I was walking through a forest myself, besides Richter. Richter took these photos on his daily walks and I found myself wanting to do my own series, of my own walks.
In general, the book is evocative of abstract images. That is interesting though, as the images are very definitely of trees and woodland. That effect emerges from the book as a whole.
I think this is in part because of Richter’s masterstroke idea of merging the loosely categorised images with the complete randomness of the text. The text somehow pulls the images together, and is evocative of a random walk through the woods.
Overall I found the experience of the book to be quite relaxing. The cold, green hues tug at my feeling of nature and of a cold autumn in Germany.
It’s a visceral experience and one that I feel is fully justified in Obrist’s top 5 contemporary books list. Obrist mentions that Richter’s incredible prolificness has meant that there are another 20 books which are worth picking up in themselves, and so I think I might do just that!