Richard Artschwager (1923-2013)

Biography

Richard Artschwager was an American painter and sculptor who defied categorisation and was associated with multiple movements, such as Pop, Optical, Minimalist and Conceptual Art. His work explored the visual and tactile senses by focusing on the interactions between painting and sculpture to create imaginative and humourous works. "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," he said about his practice.

Born in 1923 in Washington DC, Artschwager's studies at Cornell University were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. While serving he sustained a head injury and spent the majority of the war on administrative duty in Germany and Austria. He returned to the United States and completed a BA in physics in 1948 before moving to New York to follow his desire to work as an artist. Artschwager travelled to Paris to study under Amédée Ozenfant and began designing furniture to earn an income, which would greatly impact his evolving art practice. In the 1960s he began to experiment with functional objects alongside painting and sculpture and produced one of his best-known works, Table and Chair (1963-1964), a pair of laminate blocks that serve both as representations of funiture and as functional objects. This distinction between representational images and real objecthood is investigated througout his oeuvre.

Artschwager gained commercial and critical success during his lifetime and exhibited at major galleries, including Leo Castelli in the 1960s and Mary Boone in the 1980s. A retrospective of his work was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York along with major shows at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Today his work is held in major museum collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporian, Paris.