Art movements of the American Post-War period redefined boundaries, setting new rules for how art could be experienced and defined. Richard Artschwager disregarded definition. He incorporated Pop Art’s industrial materials, the geometric forms of Minimalism, and Conceptualism’s celebration of ambiguity. His work is included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Kunstmuseum Basel, among others. A major retrospective, organized by the Whitney Museum in 2012, highlighted the artist’s distinctive and diverse body of work.
He is likely best known for his “Blps,” black oblong forms that transported art outside of the museum. The blps appeared on buildings, city streets, windows, and stairwells – anywhere the eye might typically overlook. Artschwager compelled the viewer to pay attention and to look closely.
In the 1970s, the artist focused on architectural motifs, including elements of interior space. In 1971’s Weave Drape, Artschwager pulls the eye into the painting. On the surface, the flowing drapery and an apparent enlargement of that same fabric appear side by side, leading the eye toward detail. The transition from graceful curve to rigid structure – from external to internal – is further cultivated by the artist’s choice of medium.
Artschwager painted on Celotex, a fibrous insulation board used in construction. The material’s rough texture causes the paint to rest unevenly on the surface, drawing out the underlying structure and causing the foundational layer to swim underneath the painted image.
Artschwager carved out a place in American art history as one who complicated perception, merging the worlds of painting and sculpture.