Skip to main content

Richard Artschwager:
Books, Punctuation, Splats & Time

October 22, 2016 – December 3, 2016

Exhibition View

The work of Richard Artschwager does not take to labels easily, as it incorporates and/or quotes elements of Conceptualism, Minimalism, Pop, Photorealism and Surrealism, among others.  In a partial homage to Artschwager’s singular, yet quotation-filled approach, we have compiled a series of statements by the artist and by others that relate both to the specific works on display in this exhibition as well as to his general approach.

Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American art, in describing Richard Artschwager’s punctuation marks, wrote that, “they appear as humorous, sensuous forms — yet mute ones, detached from the dramatic feeling or sound that they would imply in a text.  Decontextualizing the emotion associated with the mark contradictorily summons an existential loneliness.”

Artschwager’s “Time Piece” and “Book” both look like the objects described in their titles.  Both have veneered surfaces.  The “book” has no words and no pages, yet the clock is fully functional.  They are the same yet opposites.  Speaking about works using the veneer and veneer being a photographic image of a material, Artschwager stated, “it was a picture of a piece of wood.  If you take that and make something out of it, then you have an object.  But it’s a picture of something at the same time, it’s an object.”

“Ever since our mind learned to fly out of our bodies, we have been moving rapidly from the accessible to the inaccessible, and back, rapidly, most likely because the accessible and the inaccessible have been trading places very fast.  Maybe the mind is actually staying right where it is.”

In Artschwager’s 1967 essay, “The Hydraulic Door Check”, he states, “The most striking property of doors (although not unique to doors) is RESONANCE between two states, which can be conveniently labels as “open” and “closed”.  Resonance is never a simple, unqualified fluctuation between two states; even so in this case.  A door — at any given moment — is in a state of being closed with the possibility of its being opened, or in a state of being open with the possibility of its being closed.  This is not a speculative model for a door but a description of the state of affairs which immediately existed when the first door was brought into being.”  One can expand this notion to an understanding of several of Artschwager’s motifs – 1) veneer as an image of material turned back into a physical object and 2) punctuation marks as physical silent objects completely out of written context yet have the opportunity to comment on all that is around.

Artschwager stated, “I’m not talking about the apparatus, I’m talking about our being in a primarily social, as opposed to primarily physical, space.  Our physical space has been eroded to the point of being endangered, it survives where there are few people and lots of space and where a person or persons can reside in pleasurable solipsism — watching, listening, not editing or throwing anything away … Social space is language-bound and language is always subject-predicate, a Procrustean abridgment of the event which, for instance, allows no excluded middle … Just think back to that time when people lived in the country.  One didn’t look at red and green lights — in other words, particles — in order to cross the street, but rather at the full field of vision.  And so it is with Matisse.  When you sweep your eyes over it, you’re seeing it as it was intended to be seen.  It’s so simple.”

Richard Armstrong states ”Richard Artschwager has sought to alter the context of viewing by making pictorial sculpture and dimensional, space-occupying paintings.  Equally conceptual and physical, his work is not intended as a simple demonstration of thought or as a purely aesthetic experience.  He engages mind and body by situating us in front of a thing, often familiar-looking and always convincingly well made.”

Works In Exhibition

Pregunta III

Richard Artschwager Pregunta III 1983 Painted wood in two parts

29 1/4 x 8 7/8 x 6 inches  (74.3 x 22.5 x 15.2 cm)
Edition of 6
(Inventory #28281)

Corner Exclamation

Richard Artschwager Corner Exclamation 1993 Acrylic on wood in two parts

Overall dimensions, Part A:  25 x 6 x 4 inches  (63.5 x 15.25 x 10 cm)
Overall dimensions, Part B:  6 x 5 x 3 inches  (15.25 x 12.75 x 7.75 cm)
Edition of 30, and VI
Signed, dated and inscribed in ink verso of each
(Inventory #27009)

Exclamation Point

Richard Artschwager Exclamation Point 1980 Latex paint on wood in two parts

37 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches  (94 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm)
Edition of 12
(Inventory #27902)


Richard Artschwager Book 1987 Formica on wood

5 x 20 x 12 inches  (12.7 x 50.8 x 30.5 cm)

Edition of 40

Signed and numbered on the underside

(Inventory #27855)

Corner Splat II

Richard Artschwager Corner Splat II 2009 Laminate on aluminum in two parts

Signed and numbered on reverse of larger element
Different configurations and sizes, each unique in a series of twenty
This one:  17 1/8 x 22 1/4 inches
(Inventory #25363)

Time Piece

Richard Artschwager Time Piece 1989 Formica and enamel on wood, aluminum and clock mechanism multiple

Clock element:  19 x 9 x 5 1/4 inches  (48.3 x 22.9 x 13.3 cm)
Base element:  7 1/2 x 23 3/8 x 5 3/16 inches  (19.1 x 59.4 x 13.2 cm)
Overall size:  25 1/2 x 23 3/8 x 5 3/16 inches  (64.8 x 59.4 x 13.2 cm)
Edition of 30
Signed and numbered in ink on a label affixed to the base
(Inventory #27261)

Hydraulic Door Check

Richard Artschwager Hydraulic Door Check 2002 Boxed catalogue with rubberized horsehair cover

9 1/4 x 7 5/8 x 2 inches  (23.5 x 19.4 x 5.1 cm)
Edition of 500
Signed and numbered
(Inventory #BK.26981)

Pregunta II

Richard Artschwager Pregunta II 1983 Painted wood in two parts

29 1/2 x 11 x 2 inches  (74.9 x 27.9 x 5.1 cm)
Edition of 6
Signed, titled, numbered and dated on the reverse on each element
(Inventory #28280)

Exclamation Point

Richard Artschwager Exclamation Point 2006 Rubberized horsehair, paint, and masonite in two parts

Overall size: 28 x 7 1/8 inches  (71.1 x 18 cm)
Edition of 12
(Inventory #BK.21657)