Artschwager, 88, is associated with the pop-art movement, conceptual art and minimalism. Over the years, his artistic repertoire has expanded to include Formica-covered interpretations of everyday objects such as tables, chairs and mirrors.
Artschwager, who studied science at Cornell University after serving in World War II, decided to pursue art as a career because he wanted to produce something ground-breaking.
Whitney Museum Showcases Richard Artschwager
“All the good stuff had been done,” he joked. “Einstein, he’d gotten it all! He didn’t leave us anything! But I saw some gaps in art. That’s where things were left undone, in a mess. The people doing it seemed to be trying to use their souls.”
Artschwager was also drawn to art because he found in the discipline an intoxicating spiritual freedom.
“Art is useless-looking, its activity or production [has] no purpose, certainly not to make a living,” he said. “I would wake up at night and think, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into? You don’t want to do that! But you gotta do something.’
“And with art, there’s freedom—which is actually very seldom practiced by artists.”
Artschwager’s work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, New York (1988); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1989); Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2003); and Kunstmuseum Winterthur (2003).
His current exhibit, “Richard Artschwager!” is on view at the Whitney through Feb. 13, 2013.