Richter’s monumental Cage paintings were completed in 2006 and first exhibited at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Like his earlier squeegee abstractions, they are the outcome of several layers of painting and erasure. Their surfaces are animated by lines where the squeegee has paused, by brushstrokes, other scrapings, and areas where the skin of oil paint has dried and rippled. Cage 1 with its soft lateral striations evokes the surface of a gently running river; in Cage 2 a veil of grey covers autumnal yellows like a thin mist; in Cage 3 grey paint seems much more material recalling the coarse surface of a concrete wall. Deep reds dominate the upper and lower section of Cage 4 and are more concealed in Cage 5. Cage 6 has the greatest chromatic range but there is still a sense of understatement and muted light.
Richter was listening to the music of John Cage while he worked on these paintings and titled them after the composer. He has long been interested in Cage’s ideas about ambient sound and silence, and has approvingly quoted his statement ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it’. Richter is also drawn to Cage’s rejection of intuition as well as total randomness, planning his compositions through structures and chance procedures. While there are no direct links between any particular work in this series and any composition by Cage, some critics have suggested affinities between the two figures’ approaches and between the constant flux in Cage’s music and the space created by Richter’s paintings.
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