Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Berkeley Memories of Artschwager . . .

Richard Artschwager (2009)

Actually, Richard Artschwager isn't the one I principally mean, but rather his daughter, Eva, a friend of mine while I was pursuing my doctorate at Berkeley. She was an undergrad in history of science, which I was initially studying as a grad student, and that brought us together as friends.

I hadn't known her so long when, over a coffee, I happened to ask, "Eva, what does your father do?"

"He's a painter," she replied.

I thought for a moment, then asked, "A house painter?"

She gave me a searching look, and I realized I had made a slight misstep. "A real painter, you mean?"

She nodded.

I thought another moment, then asked, "Is he good?"

"They don't know," she admitted, but that very manner of admission clued me in that he must be important.

"What sort of style?" I inquired.

"He's into conceptual art these days."

"What's that?"

"It's sort of Platonic," she explained. "He also does sculptures, and he might sculpt a pyramid but stretch it to the very limits of its Platonic form. He wants to see how far an object can be distorted, yet retain its identity."

"Oh," I said, not knowing what else to say, and we talked of other things. Some time later, Eva moved away, off to the East Coast for her own graduate studies, and one day, I noticed that Richard Artschwager was giving a talk at an exhibition of his art in the University Museum, so I went. He was about 25 years younger than in the picture above and looked remarkably like Eva, though taller. The talk he gave was centered on a work that stood before us: a door, framed on one side by a single brace -- I mean a 'grammatical' or 'mathematical' brace. It has stuck in my mind because during the question-and-answer period, someone asked if he had noticed that the brace could look like a moustache if placed horizontally, so he rearranged his artwork there before us, hanging the 'moustache' to the doorknob, thereby changing the concept of his work entirely. I think he managed to go beyond the limits of its Platonic form . . .

I thought of all this the other day because I read a reference to Richard Artschwager in Newsweek, specifically, in an article by Blake Gopnik, "Warhol, Picasso? Yawn" (September 3, 2012), that praised the Whitney Museum for exhibiting not just the famous, big-name artists:
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is one of the few major players that rarely puts big names on its schedule: its main fall show is about the underrated pop artist Richard Artschwager.
That sent me to the Whitney website, where I found these words:
Richard Artschwager's first solo exhibition was in 1965 at the age of forty-two at Leo Castelli Gallery. Since then his work has been shown throughout the world, and his enigmatic and diverse oeuvre has been influential, yet not thoroughly understood. This exhibition is a comprehensive review of Artschwager's remarkable creative exploration of the mediums of sculpture, painting, and drawing and the first retrospective exhibition of Artschwager's work since one organized at the Whitney in 1988.
I see that they now know he's good -- and that's good to know now -- though I wonder what became of Eva and what she's doing. I promised to keep in touch, but I had some rather chaotic years after 1984, so I lost contact . . .

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At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might be wrong here, but... I seem to see some facial resemblance with you :)

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Really? I was thinking that he looks like my old high school math teacher. Maybe we old folks all look the same . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no. I by no means meant your age. You're not old. The man in the above photo could be you father though.


At 2:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The resemblance for me is too hard to see.

Hmmm . . . a poem.

Jeffery Hodges

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