Richteriana at Postmasters is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

A detail from "Militia Family" (2012) by Fabian Marcaccio (Courtesy Postmasters)

Gerhard Richter may really be the most important painter working today – but he still can’t be the infallible god that the art world, and especially the art market, likes its heroes to be. A show called “Richteriana,” at Postmasters gallery in New York, subjects his divinity to some modest doubt. Where Richter took moments in the news and gave them a genteel blur, Fabian Marcaccio goes for gross-out goop instead. Today's Daily Pic is based on a photo of a paramilitary group in Michigan, and suggests that a lot of historical reality is fully grotesque, and that Richter’s soft poignancy goes too easy on it.

Other pieces in the exhibition take on Richter as the god of abstraction. David Diao, for instance, shows how the German’s abstract canvases were rooted in a moment in 1970s painting that involved lots of other artists – including Diao himself, who presents one of his own early, Richter-ish works. Once upon a time, Richter’s abstractions, made by a process of mechanical smears, were seen as a send-up of heroic brush-wielders. It’s ironic that now he’s the hero who demands sending up.

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