Richard Artschwager-Gagosian

Natasha Prince
May 16, 2013 4:40PM

Richard Arstchwager recently passed away towards the end of his retrospective at the Whitney which is now travelling to the Hammer museum in LA. Artschwager was making sculpture, painting, drawings and other objects since the early 50's. His work has been regarded as Pop-Art and Minimal because of its geometric forms and solid presence and as Conceptual Art because of its cool and cerebral detachment.  But non of these classifications define the aims of the artist who specialized in categorical confusion and worked to reveal the levels of deception involved in pictorial illusionism. One of the most important artists to emerge during the twentieth century, Artschwager’s playful and diverse oeuvre has influenced generations of younger artists (like Urs Fischer) by challenging assumptions about perception and the aesthetic, material and spatial experience of art and the everyday. 

From 1962 Artschwager also painted grey acrylic monochrome pictures, basing his images on black-and-white photographs, characteristically of modern buildings as shown in property advertisements, as in Apartment House.  His emphasis, however, remained on ambiguities of perception—on the interaction of observation and illusion—especially in sculptures conceived as hybrids of recognizable objects, such as Book III (Laokoon; formica on wood with metal handles and vinyl cushion, 1981; Paris, Pompidou), part lectern and part pew.

This piece is one of my favorite sculptures I have seen by Artschwager. It derives from his time during the 1950s when he was designing and making furniture in New York, but after a fire that destroyed most of the contents of his shop in 1958 he turned again to art. He continued to produce furniture and, after a commission to make altars for ships in 1960, had the idea of producing sculptures that mimicked actual objects while simultaneously betraying their identity as artistic illusions. At first these included objets trouvés made of wood, over-painted with acrylic in an exaggerated wood-grain pattern (e.g. Table and Chair, 1962–3; New York, Paula Cooper), but he soon developed more abstract or geometrical versions of such objects formed from a veneer of formica on wood (e.g. Table and Chair, 1963–4; London, Tate). His preference for synthetic materials considered to be in debased taste together with his references to everyday objects were central to his response to Pop Art. Similarly his block-like sculptures had much in common formally with Minimalism.


Chair 1965-2000

40 1/2 x 20 1/2 x 20 inches

Acrylic, paper and wood

Edition 3/6

Natasha Prince
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