Richard Artschwager

Galerie Franck & Schulte

In a room on the main floor of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt there is a 1967–68 work by Richard Artschwager. It shows a pornographic scene, and the authorities had a sign posted that minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult in order to view this picture. Artschwager’s work—here completely misunderstood in a puritanical fashion—has always been provocative, less because of its subject matter than because of its radical questioning of materials and hence of the conventions of looking at art. In this exhibition Artschwager presented seven works from the years 1990 through 1992, including sculptural objects and pictures. In his method of producing objects from artificial materials that retain a sense of mass culture, Artschwager has succeeded in creating an antireality in which materials from design are freed from the dictum of functionality. Splatter, Chairs, Planes, and Files seem like materializations of concepts. The artist creates prototypes of our 20th-century object-world as well as simultaneous aspects of the sublime in the competing number of surfaces. In their rigorous desire to be different while still staying similar, these objects reflect Immanuel Kant’s thoughts on the self-referentiality and uniqueness of the art object.

For this reason Artschwager has contributed to the formulation of a new cultural situation in the concepts of art, design, image, and object can be incorporated into a broader overlapping definition of art. It is thus easy to see why artists such as Jan Vercruysse, John Armleder, Peter Halley, and Meyer Vaisman have placed their work in the context of Artschwager’s.

Peter Funken

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.