The painting cycle "October 18, 1977" of Gerhard Richter (born in 1932 in Dresden, living in Cologne) recollects a period of West Germany's post-war history which still noticeably influences the republic's social development, although large parts of the public have suppressed this date. As superordinate title of the exhibition, the date refers beyond the events of the night in which Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader, and Jan Carl Raspe died, to the crushing of ideas of a misdirected political movement. This is made clear by including Ulrike Meinhof, who was found hanged in her cell on 5/9/76, and Holger Meins, who died from the consequences of a hunger-strike on 11/9/74. But for Richter, this date marks even more the culminating point of an existential borderline situation in which the awareness of hopelessness knows only death as a conclusion and solution. The reasons and motives leading him to paint 15 pictures eleven years after the represented events are subjective and can only be grasped vaguely with words such as "horror, compassion, fear and mourning". They are the attempt to express these feelings and, by making them public, to facilitate a collective coming to terms with them. The paintings were preceded by a long examination of their legitimacy against the background of a development in art which had more or less voluntarily given up the representation of historical issues. To deal with this, Richter fell back upon the method of painting after photographs which he had developed at the beginning of the 60s. In terms of problematizing the relationship between image and reality, the cycle confronts the reproduced reality in the photos with a reality of its own which can surely contribute more to dealing with an unresolved event than suppression or acknowledgement as supposedly objective forms of evidence.

Photos: Katrin Schilling