48 Portraits

“48 Portraits" intends to negotiate directly with the famous series of paintings with the same name, made by the artist Gerhard Richter. The 48 portraits of Richter were produced in 1971/72 and first presented in 1972 at the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. It's a 48 medium-sized paintings (70x55cm), are black and white images taken from the encyclopedia. They represent 48 European and American intellectuals, philosophers, writers, musicians, scientists.

Richter makes a process of historical survey. But this kind of encyclopedic index in painting, is also a very personal and subjective look at what the author considered to be the influential figures and characters of the nineteenth century. All of them are white and male. There are according to Benjamin, H. D.  Buchloh and Robert Storr, like a demand by the painter of a historical kind of paternal authority.*

The exhibition will consists of 48 small scale paintings (16x24cm). They are representations of unknown people taken from fragments of images found in the Internet. These different "portraits" have in common the perception of a given activity, a form of involuntary "index" of different social characters. All these persons are disguised by masks or objects that affect their individual identification. The conversion of these characters unskilled in painting has the advantage of calling on the one hand, the fragile concept of "social actor" in contemporary society, and secondly, to point out the superficial nature of all social categorization in process of open discussion. Thus, the convening of a random process in the selection of pictures painted by the choices antinomy Richter, seeks to highlight the relativity of the legacy of the great historical figures, as opposed to a changing society and about which we know little.

The second part of the exhibition will be composed of the video-animation “48 Portraits of Gerhard Richter”. This is a video projection of a fragment taken from a photograph of Gerhard Richter himself in 70 years. In it, Richter calls us with a hand ready to shoot a camera. Repeated 48 times (2 seconds of video) this same image painted, seeks to explore and enhance the effect arising from the unavoidable small differences that exist between "frames."

This proposal seeks to establish links with the work of Richter, as well as the ideas that are (were) associated: power, fame, authority. The dialogue suggested by this work in particular is also a dialogue with a greater tradition: the portrait as a category, with its own history and genealogy. Constant is the desire to put into perspective the picture as a representation of the specific traits that make up the individuality of a person. Here we propose the opposite movement: to represent the loss of individuality in a very particular moment in our history.

Martinho Costa
October 2011

* Benjamin, H. D. Buchloh in 1996 in the text: Divided Memory and Post-TraditionalIdentity: Gerhard Richter's Work of Mourning, and later in 2002 Robert Storr in the second chapter of the text: Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, makes reference to this reading.