Monday, September 24, 2012

Richard Artschwager | Complete Multiples

Richard Artschwager 
Complete Multiples
New York City, USA: Brooke Alexander Editions, 1991
56 pp., 25 x 20 cm., softcover
Exhibition catalogue/Multiples catalogue raisonné

Richard Artschwager began working with Brooke Alexander in the late sixties, beginning with the publication of the edition Locations. From January 25th to March 9th, 1991, the gallery presented a survey exhibition of Artschwager's multiples and editions. To coincide with the exhibition, a catalog raisonné of the editions was published, which featured a transcription of a conversation between Alexander and Artschwager in which they discuss the methods of inspiration and creation behind the works. The catalogue also included a multiple, the unsigned Rubber BLP, a rubber decal attached to paper.

An excerpt from the interview:

BA: Do you remember when you did the Locations piece that we were talking about earlier?

RA: Well, the year was`70 - or was it pre-70?

BA: It was piblished in `69

RA: Sure, that's right, it was `69

BA: We starting going on that sometime in spring. It was in my first place at Second Avenue and 68th Street.

RA: The storefront.

BA: Right, and I had that little prototype box in the back room. It was either opposite my desk or to the side and I was sitting there looking at it. All the parts came together - I remember I had boxed it up in my loft.

RA: Ah ha, early bubble wrap! I was making those boxes in that shop just off Canal Street on Greenwich.

BA: I guess what I'm trying to get more at is what the idea behind that one was. It seems that I remember having seen all those things at the Whitney. Your presence there was omnipresent-not specific, at least not with labels. Do you remember? I'm sure you had those blps there.

RA: That's right.

BA: And what about those little kiddie's panties - in the corner soemtimes? Didn't you have some little underpants - ladies underpants?

RA: What areyou talking about?

BA: I don't know. I have this weird memory that there were some-(laughs)

RA: Was this at the shop?

BA: No, this was also at the Whitney.

RA: Oh, your recollection - you picked up on soemthing and I know where it was. In the portion of the space (4th Floor) with the lower ceiling, there was a hair blp and it was kind o stuffed into a corner.

BA: Ah, okay.

RA: Somebody else commented on that-I think Walter de Maria liked that one. It was kind of jammed into place as if to stop up a mouse hole or something. Most of the hair blps were presented in a manner more in tune with their approximate nature, but with this one you could really tell where it was-it was jammed in there, and why you picked up on panties, I don't know. There's something else that you're remebering on your own history and you have it filed -

BA: In that category.

RA: Yeah, in that same drawer.

BA: You had a show not too long before that, of big furniture pieces.

RA: That was toward the end of `67, beginning of `68.

BA: I guess I remembered the big blue formica drawers - I mean not drawers - they were very chunky pieces.

RA: So you may have been struck by contrast.

BA: Probably, and that sort of stayed in my head. Prior to the Whitney show, I remember saying, "This is big dysfunctional furniture. Boy, these are big", you know, and I was a little bit annoyed. Then when I saw the little blps, the idea sort of conflated with the same blue formica being used on the box and blps being indeterminate so to speak - I mean, they didn't have any fixed location, do you know what I am getting at?

RA: Well, no I wouldn't say that. You can say that they are easy to put into place - to insert and remove as if with a word processor, but once in place they are fixed - I mean fixed; they are married to the context and the two together make a whole. Or a hole? That was at the time of (IBM) punch cards where you had these little holes in your card and the idea was related to that. One of us, and I think it was you, likened the box thing as it came together to a tool kit or a set. The blps are a family of marks, gestures, holes and objects of related size and shape-they are a set. Ina tool kit - socket wrenches for example- each socket has its home within the box. In this state they are only in the company of one anotehr. It's when you take that socket, snap it onto the handle and lonk it onto a bolt that you lock the socket into its true context. Liek teh socket wrneches, the Location blp variants have one thing in common besides their similar size and shape which is that they all live in teh same box. Now that suggests something that can enable one to "do", and its a sort of state of readiness that could be mental as well as physical. Their character in th ebox is not their character "in real life" - that's been strung out, carried by memory rather than eyes-on-which makes them nifty, so to soeak. They are waiting to be used. The avriants can be periodically unleashed and be periodically unleashed and be periodically returned to their kennel. They are portable-but once you put one in place it becomes locked into its context. What locks it in? I don't know. Something different each time, I would imagine. I had them (painted wood blps) in that state of readiness when I made them out in California. They were all in this bushel basket - you know, an apple basket - in the truck of this Studebaker in which I drove from the west coast and distributed (placed) them a la Johnny Appleseed.
BA: You mentioned "blp family". We should do the family tree - all the variants.

RA: Well, the first ones evolved from some punctuation pieces which were wanting to inflect objects and spaces the way real (!) punctuation inflects the abstract objects and spaces of written language. I made the earliest blps out of painted wood, or painted them directly onto a ground (walls, ceilings, building exteriors, curbings...) using a stencil.

BA: That would seem to have something in common with (them) emerging graffiti.

RA: Sure-like graffiti, their location was both problematic and a subject for controversy.

BA: But when you get beyond "blp theory", the blp has definitely become your "tag"-your artist's mark. It's a statement of your presence.

RA: Leo Castelli hit on that - I know I've told this story too many times - he said it was my "Kilroy" - you know, that little doodle that the American soldiers were doing, the fellow with the big nose and eyes and fingerseering over the wall -"Killroy was here!" - I'll go along with that, it's all true.

BA: What about the Hair Blp and Brush Blp?

RA: They are always approximate in terms of their size, shape and location. I wanted to make them out of focus-the opposite of the (original) hard-edged blps.

BA: The Brush Blp is very animal-like.

RA: There was a critic-he really din't like them - he said they were a sort of "Hedgehog". It irritaed me at the time- I thought I had done well in creating a fuzzy/unfocused three dimensional blp and I was pretty happy with myself. I'll admit that the (hedgehog) idea has grown on me though. I've always said that they should move about freely-or scurry, if you will. They're not tied down and they don't want to stay in the same place for too long a period of time. So call them what you want - it's the unfocused/approximate part that's important.

BA: And the rubber blps?

RA: They're self-stick, which, one in someone's hand, invites particiaption in this blp endeavor that we've been discussing. The Brush Blp guarantees participation. As oon as you put one down-by accident or design-it's doing its job. Then someone comes along and gives it a shove: it's relocated, it took another job. I think enough has been said about teh blps except that in time of economic depression...

BA: They come back again....

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