Review: Sexual fireworks in Daniel Richter’s ‘Wild Thing’ at Regen Projects

Daniel Richter's "a big mistake, too late," 2016, oil on canvas. It's one of three more abstract works that don't depict human bodies. (Daniel Richter / Regen Projects, Los Angeles)

Porn and painting make for strange bedfellows. But the two come together to romp, often recklessly, in Daniel Richter’s “Wild Thing.”

How they’re received depends upon what you want from art. That’s true of any work. It’s just that Richter’s works push this fact beyond the pale, leaving no middle ground and making what’s at stake painfully clear.

At Regen Projects, the Berlin-based painter’s third solo show in Los Angeles consists of 17 large oils on canvas whose colors sizzle but whose touch is icy. Aggressive and off-putting, they are both violent and satisfying. “Get over your old-fashioned ideas about art and love,” Richter’s paintings scream. “Sex and paint — and their vigorous coupling — are all that matter.”

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He handles paint fast and furiously, with devilish abandon, surgical precision and no regrets. All but three of his paintings depict human limbs, torsos and heads, twisting and turning as they splay and splatter across backgrounds aglow with toxic luminosity.

Many seem to be engaged in athletic activities: leaping, running, tumbling, dancing or doing some sort of muscle-testing yoga. Few add up to complete bodies. And faces are always contorted — in pain or pleasure or both.

Francis Bacon’s paintings of tortured souls haunt Richter’s whiplash pictures. But rather than paint bodies as if it they were made of noxious gases, the 53-year-old paints them as if they were all thrusting muscle and blurred movement — the focus of attention for those in the thick of things. The rest of the world disappears.

The three outliers are different. They include none of Richter’s swift gestures or the radical contrasts between figure and ground. Like maps made up of scraped and scumbled surfaces, they provide islands of respite from the pyrotechnics that dominate “Wild Thing.” Raw, but not relentless, they intensify the impact of the whole.


Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., through Aug. 20. Closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 276-5424,

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.


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