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Richard Artschwager
Triptych III, 1967

As its title implies, Triptych III is a three-panel object intended to hang on the wall. Artschwager consciously references medieval and Renaissance altarpieces, yet in place of Catholic iconography we find the artist’s trademark marbled, caramel-colored Formica, a material conventionally used for kitchen countertops and cheap office tables.

Pop artists Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg also satirically elevated the stuff of daily life in their work, but Artschwager’s combination of a mass-produced material with simple, geometric forms is more akin to that of Minimalists such as Donald Judd. The Formica’s allover pattern recalls the gestural canvases of American action painters such as Jackson Pollock.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Triptych III
Artist name
Richard Artschwager
Date created
Formica on wood
dimensions variable
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and anonymous donors
© Estate of Richard Artschwager / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

Artschwager’s cheap trick

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NARRATOR: Richard Artschwager constructed this piece from formica– that plastic laminate that covered everyone’s kitchens in the 1960s and 70s. Formica meant you could have a countertop that looked like marble, or a table that looked like wood, but it wasn’t as expensive as the real thing.


RICHARD ARTSCHWAGER: The revelation is that with this formica, you have a vocabulary that runs from A to Z several times over. You have all the imaginable patterns. And out of this, you can make pictures.


NARRATOR: Before devoting himself to art full-time, Artschwager was a furniture-maker.


RICHARD ARTSCHWAGER: I had a– not a profession, but a trade. I thought upon, me deciding to be an artist. What am I going to live on? Because I want to make pure art and I don’t want to make commercial art and then either I need 16 Guggenheim Fellowships in succession or I have to sell drugs or I have to cook up something that will support me. And furniture was the way.


NARRATOR: This piece might remind you of a kitchen table, but it’s also got echoes of Renaissance religious paintings. They were often built like cabinets, with two side panels that could close over the central one. A triptych. Which is what Artschwager titled this piece.

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Other Works by Richard Artschwager

See other works by Richard Artschwager

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