12 September 2009


Richard Artschwager was born in 1923 in Washington, DC to European immigrants. He was quite familiar with art at an early age, his mom a student at Corcoran School for the Art. Artschwager was drafted into WWII, but was wounded and discharged. He spent his early years as an artist in New York studying under Amedee Ozenfant. He began designing wood furniture, but after his workspace caught on fire he went back to fine arts.

In an interview by the Brooklyn Rail, Artschwager notes:

"Artschwager: ... I was interested in science and in art. Around the time our friendship got serious, a woman said to me: “You have to choose, focus on one. You can always change.” And so, I went to art because it’s unpredictable, and science, except in rare cases, is uncovering what’s already there. I couldn’t sleep that night—“What the hell have I done?” It’s like jumping off of a cliff. The door was open nevertheless… and then what to do with that… and it having to be original—how the heck can you be original?

Yau: So in ’47 you decided to be an artist and be original, but you made your first original pieces around 1962, right, when you did the sculptureHandle.

Artschwager: Yeah, in ’62. Formica, it came to my rescue, and non-European handy instincts, which is, what materials to use. “Handle” was made from stair railing, something that the individual naturally grips.

Yau: Things that people touch, like tables, chairs, and drawers..."

Artschwager is known for both his sculptures and paintings. In 1960 he began experimenting with illusional art, creating sculptures that resembled unremarkable objects yet played to an extent with optics. He first explored optical illusions with a series of pieces entitled "Table and Chair."

"Table and Chair," 1963-4

"Table and Two Chairs," 1965

MoMA notes his similarity to minimalism, and deems his gravitation towards this type of representation as a response to Pop Art.

Artschwager: ...What I am talking about is looking for originality. And above all one doesn’t want to be “school of.” For an artist that is the kiss of death.

Yau: You were associated Pop Art at the beginning.

Artschwager: The expression Pop Art is grossly misleading; there is nothing popular about it. Context is a useful thing to pay attention to. Cubism is another one that is misleading, that period has nothing to do with cubes. If you think of shingles you get a better idea.

Artschwager paintings also play with optics in a very different style than his sculptures. Mimicking antique photography, Artschwager used acrylics to portray modern culture.

"Untitled," 1970

"Sailors," 1972

"Interior," 1972

Here's an installation I really liked entitled, "Blips," in which Artschwager painted white circles around New York City on architecture that he found particularly compelling or beautiful. He did so in order to draw the attention of passersby that would have typically overlooked these fantastic structures. The one depicted below is on MoMA's P.S.01 building.

Artschwager has pretty much stayed in this same vein of exploring optical illusion. He is making work currently, some of which is shown below.

"Splatter Chair I," 1992

"Question Mark," 1994

"Live In Your Head," 2002

1 comment:

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