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Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the Richard Artschwager papers, 1959-2013 | Digitized Collection

Richard Artschwager papers, 1959-2013

Biographical Note

Richard Artschwager (1923-2013) lived and worked in New York City and Hudson, New York and was known primarily for his paintings and sculptures. Artschwager was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in New Mexico. As a youth, Artschwager showed a talent for drawing. He studied chemistry and mathematics at Cornell University. In 1944, Artschwager interrupted his studies to enlist in the U.S. Army. After the war, he returned to Cornell to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. Encouraged by his first wife, Elfriede Wejmelka to develop his interest in art, Artschwager moved to New York to study at the Studio School of Amédée Ozenfant. His paintings and drawings from this period were featured in two group shows at the Terrain Gallery in 1957 and at the Art Directions Gallery on Madison Avenue in 1959, where they were recognized by Donald Judd.
In the 1950s, in order to support his family, Artschwager turned to designing and manufacturing modern furniture. His woodworking skills inspired him to create sculptures from utilitarian objects such as tables, chairs, and mirrors. He is best known for the use of building materials Celotex and Formica in his work and for inventing an abstract form he called "blps" reliefs, stencils or decals that were installed randomly in museum, gallery and public spaces. From the mid-1980s to late 1990s, Artschwager designed large scale projects, though he continued to incorporate everyday domestic objects in his sculptures and paintings.
In 1965, Artschwager was given his first one-man exhibition at the Castelli Gallery and he remained with the Gallery for thirty years. He was also represented by Mary Boone, David Nolan, and the Gagosian Gallery. In the 1980s, Artschwager served on the Visual Arts Policy Committee at the National Endowment of the Arts. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts in 1992. He was a visiting artist at New Mexico State University, Soka University, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the University of Arizona. Artschwager's work was the subject of a major surveys, including the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Neues Museum, and Serpentine Gallery. He participated in numerous international group shows including the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel, Germany. The Whitney Museum of American Art honored Artschwager with two travelling retrospective exhibitions in 1988 and 2012. In late 2012, Artschwager had one-man shows at the Gagosian Gallery and David Nolan Gallery.
Richard Artschwager died at the age of 89 years in 2013. He is survived by his wife, Ann Sebring Artschwager and three children from previous marriages.