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View of “Richard Artschwager!,” 2012–13. Background: Table (Somewhat), 2007. Foreground: Exclamation Point (Chartreuse), 2008. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

Richard Artschwager

Whitney Museum of American Art

View of “Richard Artschwager!,” 2012–13. Background: Table (Somewhat), 2007. Foreground: Exclamation Point (Chartreuse), 2008. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

FITTINGLY, PERHAPS, for someone who enjoyed his first solo exhibition in 1965 at the age of forty-two, Richard Artschwager often played the roles of both wise guy and wise man in relation to his peers. Though commonly pigeonholed as an odd, idiosyncratic character in post-1960s art histories, Artschwager was, in fact, an adept insider and a wry interlocutor, appearing, for example, in Donald Judd’s landmark essay “Specific Objects” and Kynaston McShine’s watershed exhibition “Primary Structures.” What came across in his recent retrospective, “Richard Artschwager!,” curated by Jennifer Gross, however, was not only his critical—and often comical—position with respect to the mainstream currents of his time, but the way he consistently pictured these developments in relation to a wider field of design, engaging questions about the cultural role of objects not always addressed

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