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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Richard Artschwager, genre-mixing painter, sculptor

NEW YORK — Richard Artschwager, a painter and sculptor whose witty, contradictory mixing of ­artistic genres made him one of the most critically admired artists to emerge in the 1960s, died early Saturday in Albany, N.Y. He was 89.

His death, at a hospital, followed a recent stroke, said his wife, Ann.

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The death also followed, by less than a week, the closing of a career retrospective of Mr. ­Artschwager’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan, his second to be mounted there. He lived in Hudson, N.Y., in Columbia County.

In an era when most artists worked in clearly determined styles, Mr. Artschwager slyly confounded the usual categories.

His most famous sculpture, ‘‘Table With Pink Tablecloth,’’ from 1964, was a box neatly veneered with pieces of colored Formica to create the image of a wooden table with a square pink tablecloth draped on it.

He once said: ‘‘Sculpture is for the touch; painting is for the eye. I wanted to make a sculpture for the eye and a painting for the touch.’’

Richard Ernst Artschwager was born in Washington. His father, a German immigrant, was a ­botanist, trained at Cornell University; his mother, a Ukrainian immigrant, was an artist who studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington and at the National Academy of Design in New York.

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In 1935, the family moved to Las Cruces, N.M., a better climate for the artist’s father, who had tuberculosis.

Like his father, Mr. Artschwager studied at Cornell, concentrating on mathematics and sciences, though he was deeply interested in art.

Before completing his degree, he was drafted into the US Army in 1944 and saw combat in Europe, suffering a slight wound at the Battle of the Bulge.

Afterward he was assigned to counterintelligence in Vienna, where he met and, in 1946, married his first wife, ­Elfriede Wejmelka.

In the early 1950s he stopped making art and went into business building furniture. After a fire ­destroyed his workshop in 1958, he resumed art making and had his first exhibition at the Art Directions Gallery in New York.

The Whitney produced its first Artschwager retrospective in 1988-89. It later traveled to San ­Francisco, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, and Duesseldorf, Germany.

He had his last solo exhibition with Gagosian Gallery last fall in Rome.

Mr. Artschwager was married four times, the first three ending in divorce.

In addition to his wife, the former Ann Sebring, he leaves two daughters Eva and Clara Persis Artschwager; a son, Augustus Theodore; a sister, Margarita Kay; and a grandson.

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