German artist Gerhard Richter has created Strontium, a large-scale mural for the new de Young derived from digitally-manipulated photographs, that together form a geometric black and white motif representing the atomic structure of strontium titanate, a synthetic substance often used to create artificial diamonds. The monumental piece is constructed of 130 digital prints, each one measuring 27-1/2-x 37-1/4 inches, mounted on aluminum with plexiglass coating. It spans a total of 31 x 29.86 feet and is installed in Wilsey Court, the de Young's central public gathering space.
Strontium reflects Richter’s interest in the dialectic of opposites and his longstanding artistic and philosophical investigation into the relation between the window and the mirror of representation. Using his signature blurring of images, Richter manipulates existing photographs of strontium titanate and thereby underscores the impermanence of these atomic structures. By organizing the photographs into a monumentally scaled mural, he calls attention to the aggregate experience of the discrete yet undetectable instants that make up our experience of reality.
The work of Gerhard Richter is widely acknowledged as being of defining importance to an entire generation of contemporary artists. The subject of the 2002 retrospective, Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting organized by the Museum of Modern Art, Richter was born in Dresden, Germany, and first studied art under the social and political disciplines of the East German communist government. In 1961 he moved to West Germany to continue his studies at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where he was inspired by Joseph Beuys and first encountered the movements of Art Informal, American and British Pop, and Fluxus.