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The relationship between Richard Artschwager's works and material

Info: 4670 words (19 pages) Essay
Published: 12th Oct 2021 in Arts

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Richard Artschwager, (1923-2013) is an American sculptor, painter and illustrator. Artschwager received a Bachelor of Arts in Physics in 1948, although, worked a variety of jobs after graduating, such as a turner, a cabinetmaker and made and sold furniture. His career as a cabinetmaker and a project in 1960 to build portable altars for ships would then later go on to strongly influence what is, an incredibly important aspect of his own works, and an aspect of which, makes up a lot of his works- the surface on which Artschwager draws and paints on, as well as the material he sculpts with. (Wikipedia, 2021) Artschwager once observed that, "paper always talks a lot" ( Sprüth Magers, n.d., para 4) suggesting that for him, the surface on which he draws and paints on can say a lot about an artwork. Throughout his career as an artist, Artschwager has used a wide variety of different surfaces and materials, many of which are unusual choices because they are materials that are not typically used in a general, typical piece artwork. Many of these materials of which are used in construction and building of furniture, yet these materials play their own instrumental role in Artschwager's works.

In some of Artschwager's works, the materials he uses can convey a particular atmosphere or effect, to further emphasize an idea. In some of these works, he paints on top of a type of board called Celotex that is made up of cane fiber, which is typically used for insulation. One example of the use of this material is a consecutive series of paintings that Artschwager painted on this type of material, which documented the stages of the demolition of an Atlantic City Hotel. In these paintings, Destruction IV, 1972, Richard particularly one of the paintings in this series, "Destruction IV" Artschwager (1972), which documents one of the mid stages of the demolition of the Atlantic City hotel featured in the painting, surrounded by dust as it begins to fall to the ground.

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In the painting "Destruction IV" Artschwager creates a representation of a representation of reality. He believes that the observation of reality in this current era of time to be completely changed by the media and the new age of new technology. Nowadays, reality is filtered through various forms of mass communication such as newspapers, a tv screen or image. This idea is further conveyed using the textured Celotex in this work. Like for many of his other paintings, Artschwager painted this particular series of works featuring the demolition of the hotel, through not his own eyes, but rather a photograph from a newspaper article that covered this incident. The acrylic paint reacts with the surface of the fibrous and textural Celotex board, in turn creating a fuzzy grainy look to the painting. This effect created is linked to the aforementioned method that Artschwager uses for painting many of his paintings, which is to draw from photographs, newspapers or some other form of visual media than directly from his own sight. It in turn creates a distorted representation of reality, like the distorted reality shown through current era media. The distorted look that the Celotex combined with the paint creates is also quite similar to the look of the static on a tv, which makes the violent real-life event of a hotel being demolished and destroyed in "Destruction IV" feel like as if the violent aspect of the event has been watered down and made less real and violent, almost as if the image itself has been filtered down by the media. (Whitney museum of Art, n.d.)

However, in contrast to this, the Celotex also helps to make the event featured in the painting feel more violent and real. This is because the scored, rough, bumpy patterns and textures in the Celotex combined with the use of acrylic paint also creates a broken-up effect in the painting, which could be further emphasising the breaking up and demolishing of the hotel building into pieces. The softness created by the separated paint makes the painting look like it has been covered in dust, adding a realistic touch, as in real life, when the event was happening there would have been a lot of dust created from the demolishing of the building.


Table and Chair, 1963-4, Richard Artschwager

Material not only plays a big role in Artschwager's paintings, but also in his sculptures. His past career as a cabinetmaker especially influenced his choice of material and subject matter in his sculptures, which is everyday furniture. He seems to typically use materials such as Formica and laminate, which, coincidentally are materials that cabinetmakers would typically use to make furniture. In many of his sculptures, Artschwager does not create a truly realistic representation of a piece of everyday furniture, but  through his effective choice and use of industrial materials that Artschwager would generally be used to make furniture, he instead, creates illusions of pieces of everyday furniture that can be seen and viewed in the way one could for an artwork, but does not hold the function of an actual piece of furniture. "Table and Chair" (1963-4) for example, is an illusionistic sculpture of an average wooden table and chair. Long lines of brown, wood grained laminate create the outlines of a basic table and chair. The four sides and top of the square table are dressed in an ivory coloured laminate which represents what would be the empty space between the strips of wood. The use of laminate in this example amplifies the artificialness of the furniture because the laminate imitates the look and texture of real wood which gives the illusion that the table and chair are real, however, the shininess and smoothness of the wood grained laminate makes the sculpture look less like a real, fully functioning table and chair and thus also makes it seem more like an artistic depiction of a real-life table and chair. (Tate, n.d.)


Reflection, 2010, Richard Artschwager



Kilbourne Hole, 2008, Richard Artschwager

Artschwager's New Mexico drawings also exhibit another example of how material plays a huge role in Artschwager's works. In these drawings, Artschwager's use of material reflects upon the visual and textural qualities of the landscape or surface of what he sees in his drawings. This is quite prominent in many of the landscape drawings in his collection of New Mexico drawings, where he has drawn a series of different landscapes from his childhood home of New Mexico. In these landscapes he used a variety of different materials to draw on top of, which really enhances and conveys the textural and visual qualities of the landscapes. For example, the velvet surface of "Reflection" (2010) effectively conveys the soft, lush, velvety qualities of the lake that is featured in the drawing, whereas the hard, rough texture of the sandpaper used in "Crater" (Kilbourne Hole, 2008) contrasts this, with its realistic representation of the hard, rough, rocky ground around


Road with Fence, 2004, Richard Artschwager

Kilbourne Hole in New Mexico. The smooth, flat, white paper of "Road with Fence" (2004) really effectively portrays the smoothness and flatness of the road featured in the drawing. This reflection of the visual and textural qualities in the drawings, really enhances and immerses the viewer in an experience that makes them feel as if they were there inArtschwager's shoes, viewing the colourful and textural New Mexico landscapes from his eyes, as a result of Artschwager's effective choice of material that makes the drawings feel more realistic.

In conclusion, this essay has shown that Artschwager appears to hold a very strong relationship with material, and how it impacts and affects his paintings, drawings and sculptures through analyzing the roles that the materials play in Artschwager's works. Artschwager has shown through his choice of material and how he uses it, that in a wide variety of his works, that for him, the material that his work is made up of or the type of surface that he draws on is incredibly important to him and this plays an instrumental role in understanding his works and that material is something that makes up a large part of his works, as seen by the variety of different roles that his successful and effective choice of material plays in his works such as amplifying a particular idea or atmosphere as shown in the series of the hotel demolition paintings, creating an illusion of everyday household furniture as seen in his sculptures, and lastly, a representation of the textural and visual qualities of a place, as shown in his New Mexico drawings.

References

Artschwager, R. (2008) Crater (Kilbourne Hole) [pastel on sandpaper]Available at: Crater(Kilbourne Hole) by Richard Artschwager | Ocula[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (1972) Destruction IV [Acrylic on Celotex] Available at:

https://whitney.org/education/education-blog/on-view-destruction-iv[Accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (2010) Reflection [pastel on velvet] Available at: Reflection by RichardArtschwager | Ocula[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R (2004) Road with Fence [Charcoal on paper] Available at: https://ocula.com/artgalleries/spruth-magers/artworks/richard-artschwager/road-with-fence/[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (1963-4) Table and Chair [sculpture]. Available at:

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/artschwager-table-and-chair-t03793[Accessed: 1 March 2021]

En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Richard Artschwager. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Artschwager[Accessed: 1 March 2021].

Sprüth Magers. n.d. Richard Artschwager - New Mexico - Berlin – Sprüth Magers. Available at: https://spruethmagers.com/exhibitions/richard-artschwager-new-mexico-berlin/[Accessed: 1 March 2021].

Tate. n.d. 'Table and Chair', Richard Artschwager, 1963–4 | Tate. [online] Available at:

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/artschwager-table-and-chair-t03793[Accessed: 1 March 2021].

Whitney.org. n.d. On View: Richard Artschwager, Destruction IV (1972). Available at:

https://whitney.org/education/education-blog/on-view-destruction-iv[Accessed: 1 March 2021].

Bibliography

Artschwager, R. (2008) Crater (Kilbourne Hole) [pastel on sandpaper] Available at: Crater(Kilbourne Hole) by Richard Artschwager | Ocula[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (1972) Destruction IV [Acrylic on Celotex] Available at:

https://whitney.org/education/education-blog/on-view-destruction-iv[Accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (2010) Reflection [pastel on velvet] Available at: Reflection by RichardArtschwager | Ocula[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R (2004) Road with Fence [Charcoal on paper] Available at: https://ocula.com/artgalleries/spruth-magers/artworks/richard-artschwager/road-with-fence/[accessed: 1 March 2021]

Artschwager, R. (1963-4) Table and Chair [sculpture]. Available at:

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/artschwager-table-and-chair-t03793[Accessed: 1 March 2021]

Blogs.uoregon.edu (n.d.) Sculpture | Richard Artschwager. Available at: https://blogs.uoregon.edu/artschwager/painting/[Accessed 1 March 2021].

En.wikipedia.org. (2021) Richard Artschwager. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Artschwager[Accessed 1 March 2021].

Gagosian Quarterly (2019) Richard Artschwager | Essay | Gagosian Quarterly. Available at: https://gagosian.com/quarterly/2020/04/28/essay-richard-artschwager/[Accessed 1 March 2021].

Sprüth Magers. n.d. Richard Artschwager - New Mexico - Berlin – Sprüth Magers. Available at: https://spruethmagers.com/exhibitions/richard-artschwager-new-mexico-berlin/[Accessed 1 March 2021].

Tate (n.d.) 'Table and Chair', Richard Artschwager, 1963–4 | Tate. Available at:

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/artschwager-table-and-chair-t03793[Accessed 1 March 2021].

Thebroad (n.d.) Destruction V - Richard Artschwager | The Broad. Available at: https://www.thebroad.org/art/richard-artschwager/destruction-v[Accessed 1 March 2021].

Whitney Museum of Art (n.d.) On View: Richard Artschwager, Destruction IV (1972). Available at: https://whitney.org/education/education-blog/on-view-destruction-iv[Accessed: 1 March 2021].

 

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