The American artist Richard Artschwager, who blurred the lines between minimalism, conceptual, and pop art, has died at 89 . The news was confirmed late Saturday afternoon by Gagosian Gallery, which represents Artschwager. The artist’s death comes just a few days after his second Whitney Museum retrospective, “Richard Artschwager!” closed in New York. It will travel to Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum and the Haus der Kunst in Munich later this year.
Artschwager was born to immigrant parents in Washington, D.C. in 1923, and spent much of his childhood and adolescence in New Mexico. He studied chemistry at Cornell and fought in World War II before becoming an artist in the late 1940s, after using GI Bill funds to study at the Amédée Ozenfant’s School of Fine Arts in New York. He supported himself as a young artist with odd jobs, eventually designing and producing furniture. He experience with furniture later influenced the wood and formica sculptures for which he is now well known.
Artschwager described his work to Charmaine Picard in and interview for Modern Painters shortly before the opening of his latest Whitney retrospective:
Artschwager’s views on the autonomy of art were recorded in his 1990 essay “Art and Reason,” which he urges me to read. He calls his representations of everyday items like a chair, a dresser, or a table “useless objects,” and they are meant to be experienced both as the image of an object and as the object itself. “The best chance for me to be understood,” says Artschwager, “is for the viewer to look at the work.” The concept of experiencing art in the moment without preconceived ideas or expectations lies at the core of Artschwager’s practice. “Some things that happen to be useless can be commercialized, but that doesn’t define them,” he admits in a revealing aside that lays bare his practical, no-nonsense nature.
Artschwager’s first New York show was in 1959, and by 1965 he was represented by famed dealer Leo Castelli. Artschwager stayed with Castelli for 25 years before moving to Mary Boone Gallery in 1991 (where he met his wife, Ann), and then to Gagosian and the David Nolan galleries later in the 1990s.
This article originally appeared on In The Air, ARTINFO's news blog.