Sculpture is for the touch, painting is for the eye. I wanted to make a sculpture for the eye and a painting for the touch.
Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings and sculptures by Richard Artschwager.
For more than four decades, Artschwager has forged a unique and maverick path in twentieth century art by confounding its generic limits, all the while making the visual comprehension of space and the everyday objects that occupy it strangely unfamiliar. Artschwager's work has been variously described as Pop Art, because of its derivation from utilitarian objects and incorporation of commercial and industrial materials; as Minimal Art, because of its geometric forms and solid presence; and as Conceptual Art, because of its cool and cerebral detachment. But none of these classifications adequately defines the aims of an artist who specializes in categorical confusion and works to reveal the levels of deception involved in pictorial illusionism.
Artschwager's approach focuses on the structures of perception, striving to conflate the world of images, which can be apprehended but not physically grasped, and the world of objects, which is the same space that we ourselves occupy. His latest group of paintings—all deeply melancholic and spatially ambiguous domestic scenes in either grisaille or vivid hues—contend with the masterful precedents of Cézanne, Vuillard, Bonnard, and Morandi. In works such as Woman with a Cat or Light Bulbs oddly destabilized or disjointed interiors populated by enigmatic figures with blurred and erased faces reveal a compulsive disruption of genre expectations that conflates portrait, still life, and landscape. The fibrous surface of the support becomes a variable to be manipulated again and again by the artist in the service of purposeful ambiguity.
Concurrently, Artschwager has revisited favorite sculptural themes in works that recall his earliest furniture surrogates. Two tables —compact, geometric masses wrapped with Formica "pictures" to resemble domestic objects, bearing typically laconic subtitles such as (Whatever) and (Somewhat) – and two new "splatter" works—which describe what might happen if the artist dismembered a kitchen chair and hurled it into the corner of the wall, where it adhered—uphold the familiar, carefully engineered vagueness between painting and sculpture. Here nothing is ever just one thing; an anonymous sheet of walnut-pattern Formica is both itself and a depiction of a wooden plane; a table or chair is furniture, sculpture, and image all at once; and a painting or a sculpture can be at once a "multi-picture" or a "three-dimensional still life."
Richard Artschwager was born in 1923 in Washington D.C. He first studied chemistry, biology, and mathematics at Cornell University, and then some informal art studies under Amedée Ozenfant, one of the pioneers of abstraction. In the early 1950s he became involved in cabinet-making, producing simple pieces of furniture. After a ruinous workshop fire at the end of the decade, he began making sculpture using leftover industrial materials, then followed with paintings, drawings, site-specific installation, and photographic-based work. His first exhibition took place at the Art Directions Gallery, New York in 1959. His work has been the subject of many important surveys, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; and Kunstmuseum Winterthur and is included in many museum collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Ludwig Cologne, and Fondation Cartier, Paris .