As Far As The Eye Can See

Written on November 18, 2007 by Felicia Appenteng in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Felicia Appenteng

A glance at a new exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.  The read the New York Times Review, click here

Lawrence Weiner: AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE marks the first
retrospective exhibition mounted in the United States of the work of
Lawrence Weiner. Though often associated with his founding role in the
Conceptual art movement of the 1960s, Weiner is a prolific artist whose
growing body of work is profoundly relevant today. Weiner’s ideas have
reshaped the terrain of contemporary art in their generosity and simple
goals. This exhibition, like the scope of Weiner’s oeuvre, is about
choice, about personal experience, and about looking.

Weiner is an explorer: of materials and their relationships to humans
and other materials in the world. Since the start of his career, Weiner
has worked in the studio, bringing in materials and experimenting with
their properties. In order to avoid the constraints and specifi city of
displaying objects, in 1968 Weiner turned to language as a means of
presenting his sculpture. By translating his studio work into language,
Weiner communicates the content of each piece without specifying any of
its physical qualities. The properties of language match Weiner’s
aspirations for his work: to be accessible, subjective, and above all
useful for a diverse audience.

Motivated by a social desire to contribute toward a solution, Weiner
says his artwork succeeds simply if it enriches the lives of other
human beings. By employing standard materials, such as water or stone,
the work is potentially accessible to anyone. At the beginning of his
career, Weiner started making “give-aways,” small objects that he would
trade for a drink or for another piece of artwork. These exchangeable
objects point toward Weiner’s desire to endow his work with movement,
something he fully achieved through language.

The egalitarian nature of Weiner’s artwork was necessarily infl uenced
by his life experience and the surrounding social, political, and
artistic climate. He grew up in the Bronx, New York, and while
attending Stuyvesant High School, worked on the ship docks in the early
morning before classes. As a young man, he hitchhiked across the United
States; lived for a time in San Francisco among the Beat poets, a group
known for their improvisational writing technique and unconventional
lifestyle; protested nuclear proliferation; and traveled to Mexico and
Canada. The time was one of fluidity, social awareness, and individual
responsibility. Weiner returned to New York to work among an evolving
community of artists, while living on Bleecker Street in Greenwich

Though Weiner’s work is often disarmingly eloquent, fl irting even with
poetry, the work of art is not the text, but rather the idea (or
content) that he sets out in language: the material, movement, or
transition referenced by his words. As long as the content is conveyed,
a piece may be re-created in a multitude of ways: spoken, as written
language, or as a built manifestation of the object or circumstances
the language describes. The works in this exhibition will be the same
at every venue; their presentation, however, will differ: what may
appear as text on a wall in New York may be physically built in Los
Angeles. This possibility presents the rare opportunity for reinvention
and recontextualization that keeps Weiner’s work consistently topical.

Lawrence Weiner: AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE was conceived in
collaboration with the artist; his ideas are present not only in the
artwork itself, but in the experience of moving through the exhibition.
The layout upholds the utopian premises on which Weiner has founded his
artistic practice: it is meant to facilitate the viewer’s experience of
the work, to allow multiple points of view, and to increase
accessibility without directives.

by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and The Museum of
Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, this landmark exhibition is co-curated
by Donna De Salvo, Whitney Museum Chief Curator and Associate Director
for Programs, and Ann Goldstein, MOCA Senior Curator. In conjunction
with the exhibition, Weiner’s films and videos will be screened at
Anthology Film Archives in New York.


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