William Anastasi, an artist who rose to fame in New York alongside the Minimalists and Conceptualists of the 1960s, has died at 90. His Cologne gallery, Thomas Rehbein Gallery, confirmed his passing, saying he had died on Monday in New York.

“The art world is losing an important representative of the first generation of conceptual art from the 1960s in New York,” the gallery wrote in a statement.

Like many others associated with the Conceptualist movement, Anastasi was known for quirky, self-reflexive artworks that were made using idiosyncratic sets of rules. These works, which took the form of drawings, video installations, paintings, and texts, earned him the respect of many in the ’60s and ’70s, from trailblazing gallerist Virginia Dwan to the experimental composer John Cage, with whom Anastasi played chess regularly.

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Anastasi’s most famous works are his “blind drawings,” begun in 1963 and which he continued making throughout much of his career. Using a pencil, Anastasi would create Cy Twombly–like scrawls on a sheet of paper under certain sets of parameters. His “Subway Drawings” were made while riding the subway and crafted only in the time it took to reach his destination; often, they contain written notes about where he was headed. He donned a pair of headphones and shut his eyes, and as the train lurched forward, his pencil would skitter and move around, leaving the results of the drawings open to chance. He also produced blind drawings while walking, and even attempted to make some while running.

Works like these earned Anastasi the respect of critics, even if he failed to achieve the broader fame of many of his Conceptualist colleagues. “A Conceptualist’s Conceptualist who has been around since the 1960’s, William Anastasi has not, in his supporters’ eyes, been accorded the recognition he deserves,” critic Grace Glueck once wrote in the New York Times. “And in truth, as a Duchamp heir he is one of the best of the Conceptual breed, witty and searching without the didacticism that makes some Conceptual work so boring.”

His shows with Virginia Dwan Gallery during the ’60s earned Anastasi attention in New York. The first exhibition ever held at that gallery, in 1966, was a solo presentation of Anastasi’s “Sound Objects,” sculptural pieces that took the form of ready-made objects exhibited with the sounds they normally produced when activated.

His follow-up exhibition, in 1967, featured Six Sites, in which silkscreened prints based on the gallery’s walls were exhibited at 90 percent of their actual size. The work created an odd mismatch between art and life, and accepted that the two rarely sync up properly.

William Anastasi was born in 1933 in Philadelphia. In interviews, he recalled that his mother, a Sicilian of Algerian descent, believed that becoming an artist was an ideal pursuit, and so Anastasi felt the career wasn’t for him.

But when he was 12, he attended a free art lesson at what is now known as the Fleisher Art Memorial and came away with his drawing having been deemed the best one made that day. Overjoyed by the reception, he returned the next weekend for a second class and received some negative criticism from his teacher. “I looked up at him,” Anastasi recalled in a Brooklyn Rail interview, “and said, believe it or not, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ I now knew what ‘devastated’ means—I never went back to those classes again.” He didn’t sign a drawing until 1960.

When he came to New York in 1962, he started out as a masonry contractor and a brickwork salesman, but he had plans to become an artist. Within a couple years, he would go on to achieve that goal with the help of Philip Guston. The painter had come across some works Anastasi had produced by placing plaster on tar paper and recommended that the influential dealer Betty Parsons begin showing him. She would do so, mounting five Anastasi solo shows. “Extraordinarily strong, positive writing reflected some of those shows,” Anastasi recalled in 2010, “but buyers were not impressed.”

Artists, however, were drawn to Anastasi’s shows. According to Anastasi, Marcel Duchamp himself stopped by one and loved it.

In later decades, Anastasi would continue to apply his “blind” technique to painting. One series from the 1980s featured all-over backgrounds painted with his eyes closed. On top of them, Anastasi painted parts of words appropriated from the Viking Press edition of James Joyce’s 1939 novel Finnegans Wake. “They are not so much revivals of abstract art (not, that is, neo-abstraction) as parodies of it, works of Conceptual art (word paintings) with the design appeal of traditional abstract art built into them,” the art historian Thomas McEvilley wrote in Artforum.

Anastasi never found mainstream fame—not that he seemed to care much. “I am now certain that an early financial success would have been an obstacle to a steady and normal development,” he said in 2009. “At present this sort of success has come my way, but it has not diminished my decades-old identification with a remark from the beginning of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, ‘Nearly through the whole of my work I have felt doubtful what to do.’”