In my ‘The 100’ Series of text art and text artists I often hesitate to post those conceptual artists who challenge us more than others and require more complex explanations. Lawrence Weiner (born 1942 – ) is a case in point but I include him exactly because his work is a challenge and I find myself fascinated by that challenge, although, despite deep exploration, I am still not in complete understanding of his intent. Weiner’s textual work, sans visuals, asks us to adjust our conception of the nature of art.
Conceptual art is a visual art that does not specifically appeal to the eye, or at least resists appealing to sight at the expense of thought. It often manifests itself in language that resists the accepted canon of exhibition / merchandizing of gallery art. Much like famed pop artist Barbara Kruger, Weiner is known for his use of placing words and typography on various backdrops to create public art that questions notions of perception and allows the viewer to interpret the work in their own way.
If you like typography and letter forms and finding them in unexpected places, then you will relate to Lawrence Weiner. He was one of the first to introduce typography to the world of fine art and became a major figure in the conceptual scene in the late 60s when he released his “Declaration of Intent.” (1968):
1. The artist may construct the piece.
2. The piece may be fabricated.
3. The piece need not be built.
Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership. Weiner stated simply that as far as his art goes, he may construct them or someone else must be able to construct them or they need not be constructed at all, existing as text-only recipes for artworks that live in the mind’s eye.
Weiner has influenced Barbara Kruger, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Tony Feher, among others and is among the most respected in the loose federation of conceptual artists that includes Robert Barry, Douglas Hueber and Joseph Kosuth.
In the New York Times, Roberta Smith wrote about a Lawrence Weiner exhibition. Her words sum up his art far better than I could hope to do:
“Driven by the joy of language and quite a bit of humor, Mr. Weiner’s ebullient work asks tough questions about who makes or owns art, where it can occur and how long it lasts. It reminds us that while art and money may have been inextricably entwined throughout most of history, art’s real value is not measured in strings of zeros, high-priced materials or bravura skill, but in communication, experience, economy of means (the true beauty) and, yes, the inspired disturbance of all status quos. It also affirms that art ultimately triggers some kind of transcendence that can only be completed by the viewer. Mr. Weiner has elevated Robert Rauschenberg’s famous dictum – to the effect that “this is art if I say so” – to the more inclusive “this is art if you think so.” His polymorphous efforts create situations in which such thoughts feel not only natural, they feel like our own”.
Despite my thin understanding of Weiner’s intent I am attracted by his questioning of the cultural status quo and by his cryptic yet suggestive phrases splayed across walls, ceiling beams and occasionally floors. His words are poetry to me and, like haiku, evoke images not present in the art.
Lawrence Weiner said: …”we live in a world where each individual is unique and alone—and this is the definition from a $1.98 dictionary of existentialism—in an indifferent and often hostile world. If one finds oneself by virtue of one’s existence in an adversarial position to the world, if I find myself that way, then there must be at least another million people who do as well. That’s a lot of people. That’s a gold record”.
MW In doing the show, did you learn anything? As you were reviewing the material, seeing it on display—did anything occur to you?
LW Quite frankly, no. I’m an artist, which means I’m in a position every time I start doing something to review things from the beginning. It’s only the production of one person, and sometimes as enormous as it looks, it’s still comprehensible to me. So I don’t think I learned anything aesthetically. Emotionally I learned a lot. I had to admit to myself that I made art because I was unsatisfied with the configuration that I saw before me. The reason I make art is to try and present another configuration to fuck up the one that I’m living in now.
Image Credits to Google Images. All images by Lawrence Weiner.
‘The 100′ series was initiated by my 100th Post in April 2012. As text and images are the essence of my blog my intention is to present 100 pieces of textual art from historical and contemporary artists and from my own hand. To view the series to date click on ‘The 100’ in my Category Menu.