Wald (4) (Forest [4])
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ebrowne's picture


If you speak any German, the title of this painting (and as a result the painting itself) will very much confuse you: “Wald (4)” meaning “Forest (4).”

The confusing part is that this looks absolutely nothing like a forest. The closest you can get to seeing a forest when you look at the painting is by closing your eyes and imagining a forest. But Richter believed that you can’t accurately portray nature. You can only portray the feeling of it. He said, “In nature everything is always right: the structure is right, the proportions are good, the colours fit the forms. If you imitate that in painting, it becomes false.” So in the feeling of a forest is where Wald (4) came from.

His work has many layers to it...literally. He’ll create the initial painting of, say, a forest (one that actually looks like a forest) and cover that in a bunch of layers of paint and take a squeegee to it and blur the crap out of it until it looks like the finished “Wald (4).”

Each layer takes a serious chunk of time to complete though. After one or two weeks the first layer is only partially dry. But this is when he applies more paint to squeegee over. The whole painting takes about 50 years to completely dry, which is why he only waits for it to partially dry (because otherwise he would die of old age in the meantime). Richter is a sneaky dude though. He knows super intimately how quickly paint colors dry in comparison to one another and only uses the fastest-drying ones on the top layer. That way the top layer of paint doesn’t crack and make the painting look like an unmoisturized foot.

Wald (4) hangs amongst perhaps the single most lit (did I use that right?) collection of modern and contemporary art -The Fisher Collection at SFMOMA. To keep it company at night are works by Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Richard Serra, Andy Warhol, etc. aka every curator, art historian and aspiring artist’s wet dream.