New York

Richard Artschwager

Richard Artschwager, over the distance of 40 ink drawings, subjects six objects (door, window, table, basket, mirror and rug) to an incredible number of permutations and arrangements. The variety, like the crevices of Artschwager’s mind, seems infinite. A multitude of pictorial, philosophical and spatial points of view are covered, and the implications are wicked.

Things start out simply enough; it’s a little like rearranging the furniture. Baskets go on tables, beneath them, or on rugs; they are big, little, cylindrical, squat. Likewise, a rug can be on the floor or the table, if one can take the word to suggest tablecloth or placemat. The spatial variety is equally amazing. The objects can be visible through the window or door, or reflected in the mirror. There are various views from beneath the table although Artschwager eventually surveys the changing scene either head-on or from a bird’s eye view.

He also crops. In one drawing the table top runs edge to edge across the entire drawing; no legs, no beginning, no end. But reading these drawings is cumulative; by the time you see a textured horizontal band, you’ve seen enough to know it signifies table. Artschwager educates you to his system and proceeds to stretch it as far as it will go. In a couple of drawings, as if to give everyone a breather, he merely arranges words themselves. So much for Conceptual art. Next he so distorts the shades that they are readable only in terms of texture. In two, strips of these individual textures zoom back to a single vanishing point. So much for the Renaissance. In another, the shapes are all fit into what seems to be a picture frame but turns out to be the table. So much for comic book games.

Artschwager draws in a style which suggests children’s book illustration; it is crude and simple and just what he needs to convey this kind of information. The drawings become the pages of a book, the frames of a film. As you move along the row of them, everything shifts into an accelerating swirl, metamorphosing before your eyes. The progression is like watching someone’s mental deterioration, and I begin to feel that Artschwager is behind one of the doors cackling madly—if I could only figure out which one.

Roberta Smith