The formal achievements of the historical avant-garde became a freely available form in the art of the 1980s: they could be copied, varied or quoted. In this context that relativized all traditions, one-dimensional artistic attitudes began to dissolve and unimagined possibilities opened up, especially for painting. The painterly positions, which at first glance could hardly be clearly defined, were not limited to a revision or resumption of historical styles, but were formulated in an in-between, connected the autonomous visual language of historical abstraction with reality and thus ultimately reconciled the avant-garde with the Present. As an example, artists such as Mary Heilmann countered the “exit from the picture” with an independent oeuvre that evaded both the authoritarian demands of modernism and clear formal classification. This is what Gerhard Richter stands for, who uses both representative traditions and abstract imagery in his work.
With groups of works by Gerhard Richter, David Reed and Pia Fries, the Kunst Museum Winterthur has positions that have expanded the possibilities of abstract painting in recent years. For the exhibition From Gerhard Richter to Mary Heilmann. Abstract paintings from private and museum collections are placed in dialogue with first-class paintings from private collections by Jack Whitten, Bernard Frize, Jonathan Lasker and Katharina Grosse, among others. They have all had a significant impact on painting since the 1990s and are still doing so today.
The exhibition is complemented by sculptural interventions by the American sculptor Michael E. Smith.