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LACMA presents major retrospective of artist, filmmaker, and writer Hans Richter
Andre Kertesz, Fork, 1928 (printed later). Gelatin silver print, 7 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Gift of Private Collection, Los Angeles. ©2013 Estate of Andre Kertesz/Higher Pictures. Photo ©2013 Museum Associates/LACMA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Hans Richter: Encounters, the first museum exhibition to examine the evolution of German artist Hans Richter’s practice based on his interaction with other artists, writers, filmmakers, and composers. In Richter’s most significant retrospective since the 1980s, the multidisciplinary exhibition showcases 175 works by the artist, complemented by approximately sixty works by his contemporaries, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, scrolls, photographs, architectural models, ready-mades, wall reliefs, and films.

Richter helped to bring about groundbreaking advances in twentieth-century modernism, from expressionism and Dadaism to constructivism and surrealism to avant-garde film that would extend his influence to the New American Cinema of the 1960s. Timothy O. Benson, Curator of the Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at LACMA, says, “As a polymath draftsman, printmaker, painter, filmmaker, and writer, Hans Richter was above all an artist of social engagement, and the force and meaning of his art were attained through his interaction with those around him. It is ironic that Richter is not better known within the canon of modernism because he is so central to it.”

The installation for Hans Richter: Encounters is designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects, who most recently designed the galleries for Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and his Legacy at LACMA. The exhibition is the most recent example of LACMA’s commitment to its robust Art+Film program, which has included noteworthy exhibitions such as Stanley Kubrick, Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: Caligari and Metropolis, Tim Burton, and Dalí & Film. Following its debut at LACMA, Hans Richter: Encounters will travel to the Centre Pompidou-Metz (September 29, 2013—February 24, 2014) and Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (March 27—June 30, 2014).

Hans Richter: Encounters is organized chronologically around ten “encounters,” complemented by an innovative “cinematic spine” that transects the exhibition and on which the films of Richter and various other avant-garde filmmakers are projected. Each encounter encapsulates the context of interaction between Richter and his fellow artists and filmmakers.

The first gallery, “Portraits,” represents the earlier years of Richter’s career when he and fellow artists and writers were based in Berlin. More evident than in any of the other genres in which he worked, Richter’s portraits illustrate his shift toward abstraction. The subsequent section, “War and Revolution,” comprises artworks from 1914 following Richter’s brief but traumatic army experience in World War I. During this time, his social and pacifist convictions were strengthened and his hostility toward militarism became evident in his paintings and drawings.

In the gallery dedicated to “The Formal Evolution of Dada,” Richter’s work responds to his interaction with the Zurich Dada group, which he joined in 1916 and which comprised influential artists and poets such as Marcel Janco, Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Tristan Tzara, and Swedish artist and filmmaker Viking Eggeling. Richter’s working relationship with Eggeling prompted new levels of artistic innovation, and in the “Richter-Eggeling” gallery, the artists’ collaborative invention of abstract film—which grew out of abstract drawings and paintings based on musical analogs—is explored.

In “Richter-Malevich,” the exhibition addresses an incomplete collaborative film scenario for which Russian painter Kazimir Malevich asked Richter to help him manifest the concept of a Suprematist cinematic space. For this gallery, LACMA has created an interactive touchscreen application that encourages visitors to create their own possible version of Malevich’s Suprematist film and explore for themselves the nature of artistic collaboration.

The next encounter, “Periodical G,” spotlights Richter’s avant-garde journal G: Material zur elementaren Gestaltung (G: Materials for Elemental Form-Creation), which was prompted by a meeting with De Stijl co-founder Theo van Doesburg in 1920, while another gallery—“FiFo”—looks at Richter’s role as film curator of the 1929 seminal exhibition Film und Foto (FiFo). FiFo emphasized the role of film as a new art form, and Richter included works by Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Alexander Dovzhenko, Man Ray, Sergei Eisenstein, and Charlie Chaplin, as well as his own now-renowned filmic masterpiece, Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928).

Fleeing Europe during World War II, Richter arrived in New York in 1941. There, as seen in the “Painting” gallery, Richter revisited the medium while maintaining his cinematic practice and teaching at the Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York. He believed there were frequent parallels between painting and film in his work, demonstrated by his film Dreams that Money Can Buy (1944-1947), in which the camera switches from cinematic space to painted space.

Toward the end of his career, as minimalism, neo-Dada and abstract expressionism dominated the contemporary art world, Richter made collages, paintings, and reliefs that were often produced in series—as seen in the “Series” gallery—such as in Dymo, consisting of horizontal forms in different materials, colors, and intervals suggestive of musical rhythms. The final encounter, “Interrogation of the Object,” comprises works by Richter that mine the relationship between original and copy, between unique object and series, and between Dada and Dada-redux, thus participating in a wider inquiry about artwork as object.

Intensely creative, whimsical, and socially engaged, Hans Richter worked closely with other artists, writers, composers, and filmmakers and helped to pioneer advances from expressionism and Dadaism to constructivism and surrealism. Born in Berlin in 1888, Richter attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, the Academy in Weimar, and the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1914 after World War I broke out, he was inducted into the German army and was seriously wounded within a few months. Soon after being discharged from military service in 1916, Richter joined the Zurich Dada Group and participated in several group exhibitions. In 1921, he produced his first abstract film, Rhythmus 21, and in 1923, he established and managed the avant-garde magazine G: Material zur elementaren Gestaltung (G: Materials for Elemental Form-Creation). Avoiding the horrors of World War II in Europe, Richter emigrated to the United States and began teaching at the Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York. He continued collaborating with his contemporaries in different fields, such as Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, and in 1964 published his seminal book Dada: Art and Anti-Art, translated into nine languages. Throughout his career, Richter participated in over eighty exhibitions and is included in the collections of major museums across the world.

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May 6, 2013

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