Summary of Richard Artschwager
Artschwager was a highly regarded artist whose idiosyncratic presence was a feature of the contemporary American art scene for some fifty years. Though difficult to tie-down to one specific movement, his work, which includes sculpture, site-specific installation, painting and drawing, has referenced Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism (very often all at once). Artschwager's goal was to confound categories and he excelled in causing pictorial and textual confusion through a series of remarkable stylistic hybrids. He transformed the mundane into objects and images that became both familiar and alien.
- Having left behind a career as an independent cabinetmaker, Artschwager turned to making "furniture-like" sculptures using cheap industrial materials. With a preference for laminate Formica and Celotex (a roughly textured insulation board), he found a way to mimic a range of textures and surfaces that was in keeping with the kitsch veneers of Pop Art.
- Artschwager was attracted to the idea of symbolic meanings as expressed through linguistic signs. From this fascination he derived his so-called "blps" series whereby he represented punctuation marks, often as three-dimensional objects, using a whole range of typically gaudy materials. These "cartoon-like" sculptures effectively uprooted the flat linguistic mark from the page and showed how these seemingly innocuous motifs could transform the gallery space in which they were (dis)placed.
- Keenly aware of the conflicts between the legacies of abstraction and the ascendency of Pop Art, Artschwager embraced the latter's celebration of suburban domesticity but through a stripped-down version of abstraction. By this means he succeeded in producing an unusual tension between reality and conceptualism and offered thus an interrogation of the overlaps between the world of objects and art's relationship with those objects.
- Artschwager was well known for his deadpan humor. In signature "impractical interior" pieces such as his furniture sculpture, Table with Pink Tablecloth (1963), and the surreal-like installation, Door (1983), his work demonstrated a playful and witty dimension that kept alive the legacy started by such greats as Marcel Duchamp and René Magritte. His willingness to allow humor to undercut the planning behind his art also influenced key contemporary artists, notably those of the YBA movement and especially Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin.
- Artschwager's paintings might be considered somewhat surrealistic in the way they represent familiar worlds, such as domestic interiors, that do not quite add up. These pieces demonstrate his skill at restaging his peculiar structural combinations as two dimensional pieces. His paintings and drawings explore the same dynamics of pictorialism, surrealism and abstraction and in so doing they unseated, very often to disquieting affect, the conventions of both mediums.
Biography of Richard Artschwager
Artschwager was an artist connected with his audience, "There isn't any art until some creature sees and consumes it", he stated, and even then it can only claim to be art if the viewer "has a reaction" towards it.