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Richard Artschwager (American, 1923–2013)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American sculptor and painter. He studied art in 1949–50 under Amédée Ozenfant in New York. During the 1950s he designed and made furniture in New York, but after a fire that destroyed most of the contents of his shop in 1958 he turned again to art, initially painting abstract pictures derived from memories of the New Mexican landscape.

Artschwager 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, overpainted with acrylic in an exaggerated wood-grain pattern (e.g. Table and Chair, 1962–3; New York, Paula Cooper priv. col., see 1988–9 exh. cat., p. 49), 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 blocklike sculptures had much in common formally with Minimalism.

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 (1964; Cologne, Mus. Ludwig). Gradually his paintings became more complex and mysterious, the surface subsumed in a pattern of flickering light, for example in The Bush (1.22×1.79 m, 1971; New York, Whitney). 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.

Marco Livingstone
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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