RICHARD ARTSCHWAGER. Photo by Ben Blackwell
Richard Artschwager Bibliography (48 Kb)
Since the early 1950s, Richard Artschwager has forged a unique path in twentieth century art, making visual comprehension of space and the everyday objects that occupy it strangely unfamiliar. His painting and sculpture have been variously described as Pop Art, because of its derivation from utilitarian objects and incorporation of commercial and industrial materials; as Minimal Art, because of its geometric forms and solid presence; and as Conceptual Art, because of its cool and cerebral detachment. But none of these classifications adequately defines the aims of an artist who specializes in categorical confusion and works to reveal the levels of deception involved in pictorial illusionism. An anonymous sheet of walnut-pattern Formica is both itself and a depiction of a wooden plane; a table or chair is furniture, sculpture, and image all at once; and a painting or a sculpture can be a “multi-picture” or a “three-dimensional still life.” Artschwager's approach focused on the structures of perception, striving to conflate the world of images, which can be apprehended but not physically grasped, and the world of objects, which is the same space that we ourselves occupy. His last body of work marked a departure from his previous series, in that the images he had composed from sources in popular culture communicate overt, if deadpan, allusions to current political issues.
Richard Artschwager was born in 1923 in Washington, D.C., and died in 2013 in Albany, New York. He studied chemistry, biology, and mathematics at Cornell University, followed by a period of study under Amedée Ozenfant, one of the pioneers of abstraction. In the early 1950s Artschwager became involved in cabinetmaking, producing simple pieces of furniture. After a ruinous workshop fire at the end of the decade, he began making sculpture using leftover industrial materials, then expanded into painting, drawing, site-specific installation, and photo-based work. His first exhibition took place at the Art Directions Gallery, New York in 1959, followed by the first of many solo exhibitions with Leo Castelli in 1965. Artschwager’s work has been the subject of many important surveys, including a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1988; traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Palacio de Velásquez, Madrid; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf); Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2003); and Kunstmuseum Winterthur (2003). His second major retrospective, “Richard Artschwager!” opened in October 2012 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (traveling to Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and Nouveau Musée National de Monaco through 2014).