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Pull Up a Chair for Artschwager Exhibit

October 04, 1988|ELIZABETH VENANT | Times Staff Writer

"I think that's part of growing up and being less prone to edit great chucks out of your life. In your 20s, you can say, 'That's a rotten day,' or 'That was a rotten year.' I can't afford to do that anymore.

"My fraternity with you or him over there is we're here a short time. That's a solidarity that I really trust and it's the only solidarity I'd press on anybody else.

"I'm at peace with the fact that I speak with a certain voice from a certain place. What I am is a petty bourgeois tradesperson making a little more money than he's supposed to be. Which is a cheap shot. But that doesn't mean there's anything false or insincere about what I said."

Artschwager homes in on the ambiguity that's at the heart of his art-making: the useful and the useless.

"The concern about useful and useless becomes itself something to stare at, if not to contemplate. It could give you the hives. Once you've figured out that art can be image and fact, true or false, and it can be both at the same time, then if you've been making useful furniture, you can make furniture that is both useful and useless.

"It is not necessary that it be one or the other!" Artschwager says.

"People say I make furniture-related objects which are useless." He pauses again. "I'm outraged!"

Artschwager asks his interviewer to look at his red "Chair" before leaving the exhibit. "I worked hard to make an image of a chair, but you can also sit in it," he says triumphantly. "Proof of the pudding is that people are sitting in it all the time and the guards are having to tell them to get up."

But for the time being, the chair is empty.

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