Richard Artschwager, was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was never the first name that sprung to mind amongst his contemporaries, but never the less his placement in the progression of Art history was relevant and still looked fresh until the very end. Artschwager crafted a difficult to interpret body of work in his lifetime. At 88, he glided effortlessly between Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism with his own lexicon of visuals. A Whitney retrospective opened in October 2012, his second at the museum. It was well received by the public and press alike.
Born in 1923 in Washington, D.C. Artschwager moved with his family in the 1930s to New Mexico, which he continued to visit. He attended Cornell before joining the military and fighting in World War II. He was injured in the Battle of the Bulge. Later, he did intelligence work for the United States. Artschwager had been making art sculpture, painting, drawings and other objects since the early 1950s. He had 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. He had major shows at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 1989, Vienna’s MAK in 2002 and the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2003, and made multiple appearances in numerous important international exhibitions, like the Venice Biennale and Documenta, in Kassel, Germany, which he was featured in an astounding five times.
Artschwager’s approach focused 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 most recent work marks a departure, in that the images he had composed from sources in popular culture have overt, if deadpan, allusions to current political issues.
Richard Artschwager, 1923 – 2013 : David Nolan Gallery and Gagosian Gallery, which both presented his work in New York, confirmed his death yesterday. He is survived by his wife, Ann Artschwager, and three children.