Art-world types obsessed with painting’s supposed endangered status point to Richter as a keeper of the modernist art-for-art’s-sake flame, a true believer. Others take the distinctive coolness of his art as proof of his skepticism toward virtuosity, originality, expressivity, all the qualities that modernism holds dear.
One reality seems fairly clear. At present, the fashion for work that is ideologically overdetermined in meaning, political or otherwise, has passed. We are now in a phase of retreat from easily readable content. And Mr. Richter’s career offers a model for how to build art on ambiguity.