In the early 1960s, Artschwager chose a grisaille palette of white, blacks and grays and a Celotex board surface as the preferred material for his paintings. These formal elements served to de-materialize his image to the point of allowing multiple and shifting readings when applied to the wavy and patterned surface of Celotex which had its own intrinsic visual activity. The image became a conceptual exercise rather than an aesthetic representation, and Artschwager’s paintings became an arena for challenging illusionist space and representational art. With his series of Destruction paintings of the early 1970s, Artschwager’s chosen medium perfectly suits and enhances his chosen subject, a phenomenon highlighted in contrast to another series of this time, the Interiors. In paintings such as Destruction I, the dematerialization of the painting’s surface is wedded to the demolition of its object.
As Richard Armstrong observed in the catalogue for the artist’s 1988-89 retrospective, ``If the Interiors form a magnificent, somewhat paradoxical ode to stability, other paintings of this period overtly address instability. These integrate fact – the visual dissolution of anything rendered on celotex – with image. In 1972, Artschwager made six paintings of the demolition by explosives of the Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City. Taken from sequential news photographs of the hotel’s collapse, Destruction III, IV and VI … each split the image of the building into two panels, further heightening its literal fragmentation. The roundelay (a trade name) pattern of Celotex conveys perfectly the clouds of masonry dust that ultimately rise as high as the slowly disappearing structure.’’ (Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Artschwager, Richard, 1988, p. 39)
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