18.Oktober 1977: Gerhard Richter’s Work of Mourning and Its New Audience

The Art Journal Award, established in 2001, is awarded for a distinguished contribution (article, interview, conversation, portfolio, review, or any other text or visual project) published in Art Journal during the preceding calendar year. Rainer Usselmann is the 2003 recipient of the award. His essay, “18.Oktober 1977: Gerhard Richter’s Work of Mourning and Its New Audience,” which appeared in the spring 2002 issue of Art Journal, is a superbly historicized and theoretically sophisticated treatment of a very challenging and (for many American viewers) enigmatic body of work.

Usselmann offers the reader a dynamic consideration of the multiple temporal and geographic contexts in which Richter’s artwork resides by examining the political events that are their subject matter, the date of creation of the actual paintings, its reception in both Germany and the U.S., and the controversy over the work’s current location in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Through this investigation, the author raises key issues about the power and purpose of political art in the wake of postmodernism.

Committee: Valerie J. Mercer, Detroit Institute of Arts, Chair; Maurice Berger, Vera List Center for Art and Politics; Jacquelyn Days Serwer, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Harvard University