Richard Artschwager's work eludes categorization, being neither painting nor sculpture, "high" or "low" art, abstraction or representation. Straddling elements of Pop, Minimalism and Photo-Realism, it defies these labels, and succeeds in his avowed ambition 'to make art that has no boundaries' (quoted in Richard Artschwager, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1988, p. 13).
RCA Tower East incorporates the artist's signature use of Celotex, a material made from compressed dried sugarcane fibers, its coarse surface acting like a magnified version of paper or the weave of the canvas to create interesting effects of the paint. Artschwager's use of Celotex is particularly suited to his image of this iconic building, as it mimics the textured surface of limestone used to build the RCA Building itself. Known around the world for its pure and simple aesthetic, the limestone cladding is in fact covered with ripples, undulations and the rough surface that occurs naturally in the stone. Celotex brings a handmade quality to his pieces and individuality to his work, just as each slab of stone on the surface of the building is different from the next.
Artschwager's choice of subject was inspired by his love of modernism and architecture in particular. Built in 1931-1933 for the Radio Corporation of America, the RCA Tower was completed in just sixteen months and housed RCA's new National Broadcasting Company. Housing the studios of the company's expanding radio network, the building soon became a modern communications hub and an icon of the modern age, housing some of the finest public art projects in New York. Artschwager's particular affinity with the building comes from the soaring tower and its ability to indulge him in his interest in the ambiguities of perception and the interaction of observation and illusion.
Although he used various images throughout his career, architectural structures and interiors become an increasingly important motif in Artschwager's work. His subjects range from famous landmarks like the Washington Monument to more anonymous buildings like the apartment block in Condominium, 1973. Sourcing many of these images from adverts and features in the real estate pages of local newspapers, his choice of subject allows him to indulge his interest in line and perspective. He renders every aspect in meticulous detail and his decision to work in Celotex allows him to bring an added dimension to the intricate details of his subject.