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The unusual location for Richard Artschwager’s sculpture Corner can serve to take the viewer by surprise. Bolted to the corner of a wall, this sculpture is suspended in a somewhat interstitial space of the gallery, rather than a more predictable position on the wall or floor. A sense of compression is conveyed in the bending shape of three stick-like forms, imparting a feeling that the corner of the room itself is somehow bearing pressure on this piece. Although this is simply an illusionary effect, it nevertheless succeeds in making viewers aware of the space around them in a new way by making space itself seem palpable. As Artschwager has described, his work proposes that sculpture can be “felt space.”
Corner expresses Arthschwager’s unique approach to sculpture, which is largely dominated by his desire to seek out unusual and unexpected materials and forms. He is particularly well-known for his use of Formica, a material that has been commonly used in building construction since the 60s, but is seen as a debased and resolutely non-art material. Here, he intentionally complicates the modernist ideal of purity of materials by employing painted wood as well as Formica. While the striated pattern appears to be natural oak wood-grain, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this is an imitation of that natural form made in Formica. The artist deliberately emphasizes such ambiguity, and points to the fact that this often overlooked material of Formica offers a form of representation in its imitation of wood.
In its placement and materials, Arthschwager’s sculpture calls attention to its own forms of representation and how it functions in space. It also makes sly allusions to some of Pablo Picasso’s famous challenges to artistic convention in the early 20th century, including his early sculptural constructions and his use of imitation wood-grain in his Cubist collages.