Richard Artschwager studied art in the late 1940s, but spent most of the 1950s earning his living as a commercial furniture maker, which left an indelible mark on his future work. When a devastating fire destroyed his workshop in 1958, he rethought his goals and turned back to art, first making non-functional, furniture-inspired sculpture that allowed him to “explore the world of the subjective.” In the 1960s he began producing monochromatic paintings by applying acrylic to textured surfaces of celotex, an industrial building material. His imagery was based on anonymous snapshots or newspaper and magazine photographs.
In 1969 publisher and gallery owner Brooke Alexander invited Artschwager to make his first editioned multiple. While this small, three-dimensional format has meshed easily with his sculptural vision, he has also made about twenty individual prints related to the concerns of his paintings. This body of printed work demonstrates the capacity of techniques such as screenprint and etching to further the investigations of Conceptual art practice.
Artschwager’s work explores recognition and perception as integral steps in the subjective cognitive process. In Interior, through its implied sequential alteration of perspective, he animates the space of one room by moving the viewer through space and time in a cinematic fashion. Each panel stands for the viewer’s partial view of the space, yet in juxtaposition a larger sense of the room is revealed. Artschwager uses such effects to depict common objects or places, but his subjects take on enigmatic and mysterious overtones through these subtle explorations of perception and through his muted palette and strangely irregular surfaces. Interior offers a mystifying visual experience of a seemingly ordinary Victorian living room divorced from reality and evoking nostalgia.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Raimond Livasgani, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 187.