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Displaying items by tag: Death

Monday, 11 February 2013 15:51

American Artist, Richard Artschwager, Dies at 89

Genre-defying painter, sculptor, and illustrator, Richard Artschwager (1923-2013), died February 9, 2013 in Albany, NY. He was 89.

Artschwager, who was often linked to the Pop Art movement, Conceptual Art, and Minimalism, resisted classification through his clever genre mixing. His most well known sculpture, Table with Pink Tablecloth (1964) is an amalgamation of Pop Art and Minimalism and consists of a box finished in colored Formica, creating the illusion of a wooden table draped in a pink tablecloth. Artschwager often used household forms in his work including chairs, tables, and doors. In his paintings, Artschwager often painted black and white copies of found photographs and then outfitted them with outlandish frames made of painted wood, Formica or polished metal.

Artschwager was born in 1926 in Washington, D.C. and went on to study at Cornell University. In 1944, before he could finish his degree, he was drafted into the Army and sent to Europe. Upon returning to the United States after World War II, Artschwager completed his degree and decided to pursue a career in art. He moved to New York City and began taking classes at the Studio School of the painter Amédée Ozenfant, one of the founders of Purism. With a growing family and bills to pay, Artschwager took a break from making art to start a furniture-making business. After a fire destroyed his workshop, Artschwager returned to making art, developed his defining style, and was taken on by the Leo Castelli Gallery, which represented him for 30 years.

A few days prior to Artschwager’s death, the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan closed a major career retrospective of his work. It was the second of its kind to be organized by the museum.    

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The significance of the exhibition “Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters,” at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, changed abruptly a few days after it opened.

It was conceived as an exercise in compare and contrast between a contemporary artist and an old master (Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665). With the news of Cy Twombly’s death on July 5, the natural response of a viewer shifted. Instead, this became a mini-retrospective of a historic figure in modern art, paired with pictures by a predecessor he revered.

In recent years, London audiences have caught up with Twombly, born in 1928. His painting -- and also his less- familiar sculpture -- was the subject of a triumphant exhibition at Tate Modern in 2008. That show proved that he made a unique contribution to the visual art of our times.

Or, to put it another way: There is nothing quite like a Twombly. As he said in a rare interview with Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, he never took to the “Wagnerian American” mode of painting.

A generation younger than abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, Twombly took their idiom and made of it something less grandiloquent and more quirkily intimate. Over 60 years, his work developed into one of the most rich and idiosyncratic oeuvres in contemporary art -- loosely gestural, romantic, often containing stray words or fragments of poetry written onto the canvas.

Chilly Eroticism

Poignant though it has become in the light of Twombly’s death, it must be said that at first glance the Dulwich show is puzzling. These are two considerable artists from wildly diverse eras. Poussin (1594-1665) was the master classicist of 17th- century art. He took the carnal, erotic idiom of Venetian mythological painting and disciplined it into a stately, intellectual and, if you don’t like it, chilly grandeur.

So why put him on the same walls as Twombly? The basic premise is that Twombly, unexpectedly, loved Poussin. He told Serota, “I had different crushes on different artists. But I look a lot at Poussin.” And, even more vividly, “I would’ve liked to be Poussin, if I’d had a choice, in another time.”

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