City Picture Mü (Stadtbild Mü)
Gerhard Richter ( German, 1932 )
In scale and execution, Stadtbild Mü (1968) is one of the major paintings from Gerhard Richter's haunting Stadtbild, (City Picture) series, a group of nine works made in 1968 that provides ample evidence of this German artist's ability to probe the meanings and nature of images, as well as painting and art itself in the post-World War II era. Stadtbild Mü portrays part of the old city section of Munich, Germany, as viewed from the air. As in nearly all of Gerhard Richter's art, here photography is both the source of and the question posed by the work itself. The original view Richter used to create this painting may have been an aerial survey photograph taken before World War II, or perhaps later when the city had been reconstructed. Munich, known for its Oktoberfest and Bavarian charm, was a primary site for the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s and the target of subsequent Allied bombings.
Richter leaves certain areas of the canvas simply black, allowing the imagination to roam in search of details of buildings, streets, and trees, suggesting that indeed what we may be seeing is the aftermath of a raid. If Richter does not explicitly picture a bombed city, he must be seen as referring to it in the agitated brushstroke that creates a jumble of brick, stone, and mortar, and possible rubble. With this work, Richter raises questions about history, memory, information, and surveillance. A haunting example of Richter's masterful use of large-scale painting to render ambiguous images of political and aesthetic import, Stadtbild Mil confronts its viewers with a challenge central to all of Richter's art: what do we see and do when we look at pictures? At the world? At ourselves as viewers of art?
Charles Wylie, "Gerhard Richter," in Dallas Museum of Art, 100 Years , ed. Dorothy M. Kosinski (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2003), Pamphlet number 83.
Charles Wylie, DMA unpublished material, 2010.