First Encounters with Richard Artschwager: John Baldessari, Chuck Close, and More

Enamored by the maverick path of their dear friend, the late Richard Artschwager, Los Angeles-based art stars John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha sat before a crowd at the Hammer Museum to discuss their contemporary at length. After sharing stories of first meetings with Artschwager, it seems their thoughtful anecdotes are in good company:

1. Rob Pruitt, who worked as an assistant to Artschwager in his early 20s:

“When I was in my early 20s, after I graduated from art school ... to supplement my income, I got a job working for Richard Artschwager. At that time, in the late ’80s, there was an explosion of interest in Artschwager’s work ... As a 23 year old, it was a tremendous privilege to get to know the man—I was in awe ... Artschwager’s studio was in a garage behind his house, and after a morning of work, we would all have lunch in the main house seated at a twelve foot long oak dining table ...  Most of what I know about Artschwager, I learned in that dining room.” Source

2. John Baldessari, excerpts from his discussion with Ed Ruscha at the Hammer Museum:

“When I think about meeting Richard I think about meeting his work in the early ’70s, and I absolutely fell in love with it” ... “What I hated about our group shows was that his [Richard’s] name was always first and had more letters than mine!” ... “With an artist like Richard, I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to see at a show. That’s what makes me want to go.” ... “You say Warhol and an image jumps up in your mind. You say Lichtenstein and an image jumps. But you say Artschwager and a lot of images jump up.” Source

3. Ed Ruscha on meeting Artschwager, from his discussion at the Hammer Museum:

“I met him in one of those openings maybe in the late ’60s and I saw what he was doing and it was always confusing to me because he was jumping from one thing to another. I mean how do you paint a picture of a dry gulch creek bed and then turn right around and do a Rococo living room interior? ... He seemed to be doing it easily, and pretty damn good at it.” ... “He was a musician too, he was a pianist. That even magnifies him in my mind ... Artists who are also musicians always kind of surprise me and make me jealous, because how can they go and do something else beyond what they’ve just done.” Source

4. Chuck Close on his discovery of Artschwager:

“[When I] discovered Richard Artschwager, [he] was working from photographs and working in black and white. He was important for me as well. But the thing that interested me was that  [these guys] were trying to make truly modernist form of figuration, as opposed to the so-called realists, who wanted to breathe new life into what I thought was shopworn 19th-century notions of figuration.” Source

Learn more about Artschwager in the major retrospective exhibition, “Richard Artschwager!”, on view at the Hammer Museum through September 1, 2013. Explore the exhibition.