RECAP: John Baldessari + Ed Ruscha on Richard Artschwager

RECAP: John Baldessari + Ed Ruscha on Richard Artschwager

Hammer Conversations | John Baldessari + Ed Ruscha on Richard Artschwager

Moderated by Bob Monk

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A serpentine line of eager art enthusiasts lined the museum’s courtyard for June 23rd’s Hammer Conversation. On this balmy Sunday afternoon, fans of the revered Los Angeles-based artists John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha arrived in hordes to see the two in conversation about their fellow friend and artist, the late Richard Artschwager. The talk was to be moderated by Bob Monk, director of Gagosian Gallery’s Uptown Gallery, New York, and judging by the chattering crowd clad in cheery summer attire and dispositions to match—this was going to be good.

The Billy Wilder Theater lights dimmed and were replaced by the luminaries who took the stage after a warm introduction given by the Hammer’s director of public programs, Claudia Bestor. It wasn’t long before we learned just how enamored Monk, Baldessari, and Ruscha were and still are by Richard Artschwager who passed just last February at the age of 89. “He drew like an angel,” said Monk on more than one occasion during the talk. Words of praise weren’t in short supply. The three discussed how Artschwager’s talents transcended art and overlapped into the sciences and mathematics. Monk shared anecdotes about visiting Artschwager at his home and never being able to keep up with his genius. Baldessari and Ruscha were quick to agree that once he left the room, “What did he say?” was a common phrase uttered from the mouth of anyone who dared attempt to endure an intellectual conversation with Artschwager.

Ruscha also admired the fact that Artschwager was a gifted musician. “He was a pianist. I’m always jealous of artist/musicians.” He admitted this quite endearingly. And to confess to a bit of jealousy of his own, Baldessari discussed his feelings about having his art hang alongside Artschwager’s. “What I hated about our group shows was that his [Richard’s] name was always first and had more letters than mine!” Baldessari who was generally soft-spoken during the talk, let out a bellowing laugh causing a chain reaction from the audience and his fellow speakers.

Monk shared that Artschwager had created over 1000 pieces of art in his lifetime. They discussed Artschwager’s affinity for Formica, the bizarre—almost mathematical corners—found in many of his sculptures, and of course, his blps. These black, capsule-shaped pieces which came into fruition in the 1960s were discussed in great length because they’re arguably one of Artschwager’s greatest claims to fame. “They always say it’s interesting what an artist leaves out,” Ruscha said.

“Well, Richard left out the ‘i‘ in blps!” Ruscha chuckled in a way that revealed he was still very much in awe of Artschwager. All three of them seemed to be. And by the end of the conversation, whoever in the audience had been on the fence about ol’ blp-making, Formica-loving Artschwager was surely won over and itching to get out of their seats to tour his exhibition just upstairs.

Noted Baldessari, “With an artist like Richard, I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to see at a show. That’s what makes me want to go.”

Richard Artschwager! opened on June 15 and will remain at the Hammer until September 1.

It showcases approximately 150 of Artschwager’s works ranging from sculptures, to paintings, and drawings.

--Neyat Yohannes, Communications + Public Engagement Intern

Neyat is a third year student at Emerson College working towards a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and a minor in Visual Studies.

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Tags: Artschwager, Baldessari, Bob Monk, Ed Ruscha, Gagosian, John Baldessari, Monk, Richard Artschwager, Ruscha