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'Gerhard Richter Painting' offers glimpse at great artist

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Frank Zappa famously quipped that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. The esteemed German painter Gerhard Richter says that talking about his art would be equally absurd, yet that's what he does in this evocative documentary.

At 80, Richter is virtually unique among major painters in his mastery of polar-opposite styles. He is an acclaimed photorealist, whose portraiture can be as luminous as Rembrandt's. But he is perhaps best known for smeared abstracts that evoke the rusting industrial landscapes of modern Germany.

It's a revelation to watch the reclusive genius using fat brushes and broad trowels to apply layers of paint and sometimes scraping the canvas to reveal humane colors beneath a grim surface.

Richter's fans, of whom there are many, may hope that Corinna Belz's elegant film does the same thing, and the director drizzles some biographical detail onto the serene studio footage; but mostly the movie is about process and perspective. Through the documentary lens, Richter's enigmatic paintings speak to us.

"Gerhard Richter Painting"

Three stars (Out of four) • Rating Not rated • Run time 1:37  • Content Some painted nudes • Language German with English subtitles • Where Moore Auditorium at Webster University • When 7:30 p.m. today through Monday

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