Usually when we think of the materials used to create sculpture, we think of stone, steel, wood, clay, plaster, and an endless variety of found or fabricated objects. These materials are manipulated in various ways (carved, cut, assembled, and molded) to create tangible forms that are sometimes realistic and sometimes abstract. These three dimensional, physical objects are displayed in galleries, museums, or public locations where viewers can interact with them, moving around them, and even touching them, although that's usually not permitted.
This is not the case with conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner who uses language as his sculptural medium, sculpting words into phrases that define, or otherwise represent, objects. These words exist in a variety of media: on gallery walls, painted in public places, in books, films, video, wearables, websites and songs.
When these words are painted, or stenciled directly onto gallery walls, they appear in large, plain lettering placed at eye level. Although they are not necessarily attractive, they represent ideas. This approach to making art is very different than what is traditionally expected because it places demands on the viewer to determine what the artist is describing, and simultaneously picture it in their mind. Additionally, a work can be made or merely spelled out on a museum wall, but it can also be read in a book or heard if uttered aloud.
As an example, what do you think this might be?
AN OBJECT THROWN FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER
Could it be a computer monitor? Or maybe an airplane? Perhaps a bomb, or missile? This example helps us understand that Weiner's intention is to provoke the imagination of viewers, forcing them to question their perception of what defines an object, their relationship to that object, as well as the relationship between objects and other objects. Here are some other examples:
A FLARE IGNITED UPON A BOUNDARY
$1000 WORTH MEDIUM BULK MATERIAL TRANSFERRED FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER
A BIT OF MATTER AND A LITTLE BIT MORE
Lawrence Weiner was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1942. He went to the Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and studied philosophy and literature at Hunter College. His first exhibition was in 1960, and his early work explored interactive concepts related to performance art. His language work appeared at the very early rise of conceptual, text-based art. In 1969 he declared his "declaration of intent," a now famous statement, that along with similar statements by Sol LeWitt, formed the philosophical basis for conceptual art: 1) The artist can create the work, 2)The work can be produced, and 3) The work does not have to be realized.
He works exclusively with language and the generalities of material rather than the specifics. In 1979 Weiner was a fellow of the DAAD Berlin Artist Program and was awarded the Laura Slobe Memorial Prize at the 73rd American Exhibition at the Art Intitute of Chicago. Since 1969 he has exhibited at the Konrad Fischer Gallery in Düsseldorf,Germany, and since 1971 at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. He had a one man show at the ARC Muséed'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1985) and a retrospective at the Stedelijki Museum in Amsterdam in 1988. He currently lives in New York City and Amsterdam.
Page author: A.E.