(1923 – 2013), USA

Richard Artschwager Biography

Pioneering American artist Richard Artschwager's long and varied career, spanning from the early 1950s to the first decade of the 21st century, leaves a unique legacy. Working across mediums of painting, collage, sculpture, and installation, his work confounds familiar perceptions of space, form, and objects of everyday life.

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Hard to categorise, Artschwager's practice combined the whimsical quotidian references and commercial materials seen in pop art, with the cool detachment of simple, solid geometric forms seen in Minimal and Conceptual art.

Artschwager originally trained to be a microbiologist. After serving in the army in the Second World War, Artschwager studied mathematics and science at Cornell University, receiving a BA in 1948, after which he studied in the studio school of pioneering French purist painter Amédée Ozenfant.

In a lengthy interlude from his artistic development, Artschwager spent most of the 1950s working as a cabinet and furniture-maker—an experience that allowed him to hone skills and interests related to craft and design.

Artschwager's artistic career took another turn in the late 1950s, when a disastrous fire burnt down his workshop. Using industrial materials left over from the fire, the artist began constructing semi-figurative and abstract sculptures.

Richard's Artschwager early artworks capitalised, among other things, on the illusory qualities of Formica, an industrial laminate the artist had become familiar with in his furniture-making of the 1950s. The artist used the material to create an impression of three-dimensional texture, such as woodgrain patterns, on flat surfaces.

In 1964, Artschwager participated in a group show at New York's Leo Castelli Gallery—his first appearance at the gallery, where he would have his first solo show the following year. The exhibition included Table and Chair (1963-1964), which confounds perceptions of space through a two-dimensional representation of a table and chairs on a three-dimensional Formica sculpture.

This confounding of dimensions was further reversed in a series of black and white paintings on Celotex that Artschwager began making in the 1960s. A fibreboard with a rough and deep texture, Celotex a three-dimensional quality to his paintings of found photographs.

Another enduring early motif of Artschwager's are his 'blps'. The oval shapes, described by the artist as resembling a knockwurst sliced longitudinally, served as conceptual focal points, bringing new spatial perceptions to empty and in-between spaces. Artschwager's blps appeared throughout his career—from their genesis in 1967, when Artschwager was teaching at UC Davis in California, to one of his last public art projects before his passing, on the High Line in Manhattan in 2013.

Richard Artschwager's 'blps' have been presented in countless solo and group exhibitions across the United States and overseas, along with later innovations. These include his 'quotation pieces' from the 1970s, which are three-dimensional representations of punctuation.

Artschwager's works have consistently featured in major art events such as documenta, Kassel (in 1968, 1972, 1982, 1987, and 1992). Key solo exhibitions of the artist's later career include Up and Across (2001, Neues Museum, Nuremberg), which travelled to London's Serpentine Gallery (2001); Museum für angewandte Kunst (MAK), Vienna; the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2002); Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, Germany; and Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich (2003). Further solo exhibitions include Up and Down/Back and Forth (2003, Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin); and Hair (2010, Contemporary Art Museum, Saint Louis).

In 2012, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York opened Richard Artschwager! (2012–2013), its first solo retrospective of the artist's work since 1988. The show, which travelled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, followed by Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, came to an end shortly before the artist's passing on 9 February 2013.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Richard Artschwager Featured Artworks

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Pregunta II by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork painting, sculpture
Richard Artschwager Pregunta II, 1983 Acrylic on wood
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Landscape with Bushes by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Richard Artschwager Landscape with Bushes, 2011 Pastel on green paper
50.2 x 64.8 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Landscape with Tiny Houses by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Richard Artschwager Landscape with Tiny Houses, 2013 Pastel on paper
48.9 x 68.6 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Natural Selection by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork painting
Richard Artschwager Natural Selection, 1995 Acrylic on Celotex in metal artist's frame
72.4 x 87.6 cm (incl frame)
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Untitled (Pony Ride) by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork painting
Richard Artschwager Untitled (Pony Ride), 2006 Charcoal and pastel on paper
63.5 x 95.9 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Cat person by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork painting
Richard Artschwager Cat person, 2009 Acrylic, chalk and pastel on hmp on sound board
93.4 x 65 x 5.8 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Double Stretch by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork painting
Richard Artschwager Double Stretch, 1990 Acrylic on celotex and wood
133.4 x 231.8 x 7.6 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Exclamation Point (Chartreuse) by Richard Artschwager contemporary artwork sculpture
Richard Artschwager Exclamation Point (Chartreuse), 2008 Plastic bristles on a mahogany core painted with latex
165.1 x 66 x 66 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Richard Artschwager Recent Exhibitions

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Richard Artschwager Represented By

Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian Athens, Basel, Beverly Hills, Geneva, Gstaad, Hong Kong, Le Bourget, London, New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles
Xavier Hufkens contemporary art gallery in St-Georges, Brussels, Belgium Xavier Hufkens Brussels

Richard Artschwager In Ocula Magazine

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