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Richard Artschwager: Up and Down/ Back and Forth


Up and Down/ Back and Forth is what Richard Artschwager has entitled his exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. From May 10 to July 6, 2003, over 40 drawings, sculptures, paintings, and multiples created between 1965 and 2003 can be seen in the exhibition space at Unter den Linden. The artist, who will be celebrating his eightieth birthday this year (a fact he only mentions with reluctance), has augmented the Berlin exhibition with a large number of new pieces. Along with the works from the collection of the Deutsche Bank, private loans will also be on display. In choosing Richard Artschwager, Deutsche Bank has elected one of the most prominent American painters and sculptors to be their artist of the fiscal year.


Richard Artschwager, New York, 2003

Thinking in pictures. How do we recognize a table? How can we reproduce it graphically? When does a table become a sculpture? Richard Artschwager's art is about perceiving and representing the ways we see. The artist is interested not in objects themselves but in the ways we interpret and use them in different contexts. His work with pictures and objects is based, as he himself says, "on the relationship between the object, its producer/consumer, and the common space they lay claim to."


Herodias, Hostess, 2001
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003


Visual analysis, investigations into scale and perspective, space and surface, is merely held up by such expressive elements as color and style. And in principle anything can be the object of such analysis: potatoes, a belt buckle, photos culled from the media. In order to decline his "Universe" in artistic terms, as he did in 1975, Artschwager needed only a "Door, Window, Table, Basket, Mirror, Rug." His "blp," the second polymorphous constant in Artschwager's oeuvre, is completely neutral, vacuous – i.e. pre-linguistic – in form. Precisely for this reason, it is capable of being executed in any size (including outdoor sculptures) and any material.

The skeptic Artschwager is convinced that "art is based on a series of instructions." Handed-down conventions and social codes determine the way we see the world. A frame draws our attention to what lies within it; an exclamation mark to the words that precede it. Artschwager questions these rules and in doing so often makes us aware of them for the first time. In his frames we see only ourselves reflected; his exclamation mark is merely a symbol – it conveys no message. Reliefs "pour" themselves into corners; photo portraits are transformed into chairs and protective casing into significant content.


PULL/PULL,1990, Deutsche Bank Collection
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003


Up and Down/ Back and Forth – Perception is not one-dimensional; it implies communication. In Artschwager's oeuvre, drawing, sculpture, and painting are autonomous genres whose form and content are nevertheless mutually interrelated: "Sculpture is something to be touched, painting is for the eye. I wanted to create sculpture for the eye and paintings that asked to be touched."


Chair, 1987-90, Courtesy of Alexander Edition
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003


Richard Artschwager was born in Washington, D.C. in 1923 of German-Russian parents. Today he lives in Hudson, New York State. After being exhibited in Berlin, the works will be displayed in the Museum Moderner Kunst – Stiftung Wörlen in Passau, from November 29, 2003 until the end of January 2004.

The exhibition, curated by Dr. Ariane Grigoteit, is accompanied by a catalogue (in German and English language) containing essays by Ariane Grigoteit, Gerhard Mack, Ingrid Schaffner, and John Yau. And an exclusive edition will once again be available for purchase at the Deutsche Guggenheim in a limited, signed edition of 100: Richard Artschwager's etching Ta, Wi, Mi, Do, Ru, and Ba , made in 2002.

In the context of the exhibition, the Deutsche Guggenheim will also be offering thematic guided tours, lunch lectures, and special events. We'd particularly like to mention the "Artist's Talk": on May 10, 2003, we're inviting the public to a discussion between Richard Artschwager and Dr. Dieter Schwarz from the Kunstmuseum Winterthur. The event will be conducted in English. Further information on the program and exhibition can be found on the pages of the Deutsche Guggenheim.

You can also read an exclusive interview with Richard Artschwager in the current edition of db-art.info here.