Gerhard Richter, Seestück I, 1969.
This seascape is made from two negatives printed on a single sheet and seamed at the horizon. A century after the French photographer Gustave Le Gray used the same technique to overcome a technical limitation and achieve a glorious, sun-spangled, realistic seascape, Richter employed it with a radically different aim, to subtly demonstrate that all images, even photographs, are made-up.
Although the horizonseam in Richter’s work is almost imperceptible, the image is vaguely unsettling. Gradually we recognize that the leaden sea and cloudy sky, while poetically compatible, are not actually congruent, because the clouds have been printed upsidedown. With this simple yet unnerving inversion, Richter emphasizes both the fabricated nature of reproductions and the complacency of our usual perspective on the world.