Daniel Richter at Regen Projects

adf web magazineDaniel Richter, Ententanz, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angelesadf web magazineDaniel Richter, not a drill, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angelesadf web magazineDaniel Richter, CURSE THE IRON BUTTERFLY, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angelesadf web magazineDaniel Richter, Empty the apartment, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Review: DANIEL RICHTER FUROR II

Daniel Richter’s current show at Regen projects, Furor II, marks the artist’s fifth show with the Los Angeles gallery. The show is much less a departure and more of a continuation of a break that began in 2015. Richter’s work is the first that I’ve seen from a painter in several years that compelled me to research the trajectory of the process. It begs the analysis and what I wanted to know most of all is when exactly he made the clear break from his identity as a painter that he had been developing previously. 

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Daniel Richter, Ententanz, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Before the work I engaged with at Regen Projects, I had always thought of Richter as a narrative painter. Narrative first, I suppose and that more or less determines the framework of the painting – how it looks, how I see it and engage with it with my binocular vision, those eyes connected directly to that corrupted electro ectoplasm brain of mine. Messy. Scrambled eggs. They were always socio-political, and now my faulty memory is recalling dogs, dogs eating people, people dematerializing, boats and migrants floating in the dark. People falling into a void, directly toward the very frame of the painting, which I suppose in that case, meant they were falling to their death. On the other side of the painting frame awaits interstellar space, pure white noise, a no nonsense ketamine dream where the individual layers of everything you’ve lived and thought and dreamed all compress into one crystal clear, cell shaded layer. They align at the very point each one has in common with the other: You, the viewer, the camera, the one with agency. You’re the one falling towards the frame ready for the layers to compress, at once finally figuring out that you were in fact alive and all of those layers are what made you, you. I’m dying. I can't even breathe right now.

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Daniel Richter, Empty the apartment, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angeles

There was always an odd stylization to his figures that seemed very labored and developed, totally with teeth, possibly overdeveloped and overworked. Though, seeing his earlier work in person would determine if that were actually the case. Unfortunately I missed the retrospective, Lonely Old Slogans, at the Louisiana Museum in 2016. They need to be seen in person and while I'm typing this sentence, it’s striking that I need to say that, well, because it’s not so important to see a lot of painting in person now at this terminally uninteresting moment in art history. That’s another story for another month, possibly one with a click-bait title like, “Physicists Create a Wormhole Using a Quantum Computer''. Hey Albert, what’s the truth, where’s the beef?

After some digging, I determined that his break from a more narrative structure as described earlier began in 2015 with the show Hello, I Love You at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s clear that he let something go, or experienced a massive realignment in values regarding the hierarchy of all that painting encompasses. There’s obviously a lot about his work that I don’t know, but the shift to flatness suggests that the vacuum created by what he left behind was filled by something much more interesting, more restrained. His depiction of space began to emerge from more explicit relationships developed between formal stuff, like contour lines and planes. Again, much more restrained and reduced.  In my experience as a painter, arriving at a place much more reduced and formally simplified (yikes) is an act of sheer painting will, especially when it's found through an enormous amount of heavy lifting. It’s a function of the brain, like the scrum of learning quadratic equations reaches critical mass, then finally breaks and disappears into the substrate, giving way to a subtle and beautifully complex trigonometry. 

It seems from 2015 he began using pornographic imagery as a departure, in a way, painting what the images weren’t showing him. Why depict a photograph with painting? You don’t. The photograph only presents a series of formal negotiations and possible outcomes. Richter said it: “I have a motive, but it’s more about the possibilities of thinking what to do with it and stretching it from different directions – make it more dramatic or less dramatic or aesthetic…”

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Daniel Richter, CURSE THE IRON BUTTERFLY, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angeles

I first saw his paintings in person in July 2016 at his show, Wild Thing, at Regen Projects. I wrote, “Matisse, Bacon and Picasso approached the event horizon and slowly began merging into one incredible, ghastly marsupial monster, frozen, copulating into total oblivion.” I still stand by this statement, however, the alliteration makes me continually cringe at a constant speed in space. He arrived at an armature, I realize now. It need not be complicated by narrative and I see now that he was probably holding himself back from really getting into the conversation of “what makes a painting” or “how does the structure of painting express itself”. Those conversations are abstract questions that abstract painting can answer if the artist knows how to get out of the way and let it speak. While it’s true that this painting can’t be totally formal and abstract, evading questions regarding his socio-political and weirdo Freudian pressures-of-civilization and power structure type interests that have always existed in his work, he has matured and is skilled enough as a painter to know how to embed those into the material, rather than enforcing them onto the material. This artist's interests and identity in the world at a very particular time and place are made much more clear the less explicit the forced  depiction. The pressure of subtlety and restraint reveal who this person is through the material. Richter: “You try to control it to the point where you can’t control it anymore then you let go…”  That is the magic of painting.

His work has shifted from conjuring event horizon eroticism in 2021 when he began using a post WW1 postcard depicting 2 men on crutches, obviously injured from the war. The paintings from the show Furor I relied on that evolved armature and he continues the exploration in the current show, Furor II. In between Furors I & Furor II, the show Limbo at the Ateneo Veneto in Venice, an historical, charitable institution which, before it was converted into an educational establishment, offered “spiritual guidance for those sentenced to death…” They were in limbo.  They’re falling toward the frame of the painting.

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Daniel Richter, not a drill, 2022, Oil on Canvas; Regen Projects, Los Angeles

DANIEL RICHTER FUROR II

Period: NOVEMBER 3 – DECEMBER 23, 2022
For more information contact Regen Projects at www.regenprojects.com
Instagram: @RegenProjects