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From Ink to Formica: Weitman Lectures on Artschwager

Today’s post comes from Delphine Douglas, class of 2018 and Art Center Multimedia Student Assistant.
IMG_7798On September 3, Wendy Weitman, former curator of prints at the Museum of Modern Art, came to Taylor Hall 102 to give a lecture for the closing of the Art Center exhibition she had organized at the Art Center, Punctuating Space: The Prints and Multiples of Richard Artschwager. She described how she went through the Artschwager family home in the Hudson Valley three years ago, working with the artist and his wife, Anne, to look through his extensive creative output. With slides displayed behind her, she explained individual works, using them to tell the story of Artschwager’s art.

When curating this exhibition, shortly after the artist’s death in 2013, Weitman and Anne Artschwager decided that the punctuation of space was the most important “thread” between all of his work. He started his career after World War II as a furniture craftsman. He then continued to use commercial materials when he switched his focus to fine art. One of his earliest works was a collection of oval-shaped blps, which he would insert into unexpected landscapes. These blps were made of many different materials including the linoleum, wood, mirror, and rubberized horsehair he repeatedly used throughout his career. These blps would “punctuate” the space and draw attention to otherwise unnoticed or overlooked spaces.

For example, the bristly blp installed in the corner of the Art Center atrium drew attention to a space not usually utilized in exhibitions. The blps are an example of the way his work challenged conventions of the art world.

He challenged these conventions in other mediums as well, including his prints, which Weitman argued were overlooked, and were a focus of the exhibition. She used a print depicting a living room in the Hudson Valley as an example of how he disoriented viewers and forced them to pay attention to their surroundings. The diptych seems at first like one image of a room, split in two. If we look closer however, Weitman pointed out that the same portion of the room appears in part of both images. This is disorienting, and an example of the way Artschwager took advantage of his medium’s potential for replication.

Other sculptural works also combined his experience as a furniture craftsman with his interest, as an artist, in disorientation of the viewer. For example, a sculpture that appears to be a mirror, but is actually an empty frame of rubberized horsehair, forces the viewer to take a second look. Weitman also pointed out his interest in surrealism and the influence artists like Magritte had on his work. Further, his interest in multiplicity, ephemera, and the norms of the art world were challenged by his work, both in the blps, but also in prints, which were well-suited to those themes.
IMG_7759Weitman’s lecture was very interesting and informative, especially so because she knew Richard Artschwager personally and was able to point out the way his personal life and the trajectory of his career influenced his art. After the lecture, people gathered in the Art Center atrium and gallery to look at the works in person. People spent time looking through the three rooms of the exhibition and, thanks to the lecture, were able to gain a better understanding of the works.

Punctuating Space: The Prints and Multiples of Richard Artschwager was supported at Vassar by the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Exhibition Fund. The exhibition travels to the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where it will be on view October 3-December 13, 2015.

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