Although many artists choose to work with one theme or singular motif for years, few have committed themselves to a single element for the duration of their career. In the case of artist Daniel Buren, however, this strategy has been employed in the repeated painting of stripes.
Since 1965, French minimal artist Daniel Buren has exclusively painted, or otherwise created vertically striped panels of fabric and paper that temporarily exist in, on and around the interior and exterior of buildings, galleries, billboards, and various public sites and structures.
Strictly adhering to the colors green, yellow, blue, red, orange, brown, all individually coupled with equal sized white bands, the stripes appear almost like wallpaper. Conforming to the environment in which they appear, the stripes range in size from roughly six inches in height (like a baseboard following the perimeter of a room where the floor meets the wall), to several feet or stories high when placed in outdoor settings.
Although the bold patterns of colored stripes command attention in interior spaces, because of their ordinary associations (beach umbrellas, awnings, and wallpaper) they are often not recognized as art when installed in public. This aspect of Daniel Buren's work is in effect one of his intentions; to create an art that defies a traditional definition of art as an object for aesthetic contemplation. In other words, much like Duchamp, his work is conceptual in nature (the idea is more important than the physical art object).
Daniel Buren's biography is brief because he believes the information is irrelevant to his art. All that is known is that he was born in 1938 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France and began his career as a painter in the 1950's. It was in 1965 that he made the decision to paint stripes exclusively. In the early 1970's Buren began illegally displaying his stripped panels in large urban areas of France and Switzerland. This underground process, similar to guerrilla tactics employed by graffiti artists and artists that will be covered later in the course, was Buren's form of rebellion against the gallery system, and institutionalization of art. In essence, Buren was "tagging", which yielded run-ins with the law and eventually resulted in his arrest. By the late 1970's Buren brought his stripes to New York where he would install them on buildings throughout the city. He would then promote his art by giving an anonymous phone number for galleries and dealers to call, which provided a recorded message of where his latest projects could be seen.
Due to the temporary nature of Daniel Buren's work its difficult to imagine how he has been able to make a living. However, when his reputation as an important figure in the minimal art movement gained the attention of critics and galleries, the demand for commissioned works increased as dealers craved publicity for their galleries, and collectors requested original Buren stripe paintings to permanently adorn the walls of their domestic spaces.