Page 12 - Studio-International-January-1974
P. 12

Lawrence Weiner:                         across a standard driveway looks just as one   as an arena (at length the canvas was put aside
                                              might expect. There is no mistaking what we   to produce "happenings").'3
    the books                                 are meant to be looking at or what it is. We   Are the Mill Valley holes to be construed in
                                              might imagine the details of even a 'standard'   this spirit perhaps ? Do they, perhaps, carry the
    Eric Cameron                              driveway slightly differently or conjure up a   process of demolition to the stage of exploding

                                              mental picture from a different angle, but this   the ground from beneath the foundations of
                                              is incidental. Were the list of titles to detach   future bastions of error as yet intuited only in
                                              itself from the rest and get lost, we could   the apprehensions of uniquely responsible
                                              produce a fair approximation given only that it   inspiration ? And should we, perhaps, cherish
                                              should be simply descriptive, and only the effort   each detail of the fractured earth as a unique
                                              of a hard day's labour with hammer and chisel   relic of an act of heroic iconoclasm, uniquely
                                              need deter an attempt to reconstruct the   sanctioned by the dispensation of its own
                                              photograph. Both title and photograph present   integrity ? Well, perhaps not precisely that, but
                                              information so clearly and prosaically that we   the pressure of some such interpretation is
                                              could not ask more of a builder's construction   inescapable, and even today Action Painting
                                              manual. The titles, indeed, at this stage of   (and the thought of its major critics) represents a
                                              Lawrence Weiner's development, define the   point of reference still in some ways more
                                              work so totally that we might consider    important than any subsequent development.
                                              dispensing not only with the photograph but   In general, opinion of the work itself has
                                              also with the trench and driveway as well, and   remained positive, and this goes for Lawrence
                                              this is precisely the conclusion the guidelines on   Weiner, at least as far as Pollock, Franz Kline
                                              the opposite page invite.                 and Barnett Newman are concerned. But there
                                                The Seth Siegelaub catalogue has been seen   has been a reaction against the more extreme
                                              to mark the beginning of 'Conceptual Art', but   romantic-expressionist pretensions to meaning,
                                              Lawrence Weiner's work emerges from it as an   and Lawrence Weiner reacted too. The mid-
                                              art of clear-cut, matter-of-fact materiality, and   sixties saw his return to painting and to New
                                              it is for him precisely because of this attainment   York, but the works which emerged were again
    (This article was occasioned by a visit Lawrence   of clarity of definition in the material structure   not altogether to his satisfaction.
    Weiner made to the Univeristy of Guelph, where   of his art that the transition to purely linguistic   The 'propeller' series of paintings shown in
    he took part in a class discussion organized by   forms became possible.            1964,4   whether they alluded to real three-
    Roald Nasgaard and Eric Cameron. The class   In the light of the guidelines, one can   dimensional working propellers that really
    discussion took place on Monday, 13 November,   consider nearly all of Lawrence Weiner's work   propelled things, or to the television image on
    1972.)                                    since 196o as a unified production, and then it   which they were based, commit the works to a
                                              is only a matter of filling in descriptive detail,   literary message which is evidently a
      `1. The artist may construct the piece.   but a change of strategy is evident. His   cumbersome formality. It is futile for the artist
       2. The piece may be fabricated.        development entails a swing between the   to protest that he is concerned only with the
       3. The piece need not be built.        extreme possibilities opened up by the    idea of painting, any more than Matisse can
    Each being equal and consistent with the intent   guidelines and understanding this is important   protest that he is an atheist when he produces
    of the artist, the decision as to condition rests   if one is to grasp the subtler points.   religious art, or Le Corbusier when he builds
    with the receiver upon the occasion of the   The earliest works which Lawrence Weiner   religious architecture. God survives in the role
    receivership.' (From Lawrence Weiner:     acknowledges date from 196o. Having become   of a caretaker or there is no reason to make the
    5-31 January, 1969, catalogue of works by Barry,   disillusioned with both painting and New York,   the building, and the same goes for Lawrence
    Huebler, Kosuth and Weiner, published by   he went to California where he built sculptures   Weiner's propellers. If they don't mean
    Seth Siegelaub.)                          by blowing holes in the ground in Mill Valley.   `propellers' what are they doing there ? Remove
                                              As earthworks at that date, they were     them and what reason is there to produce the
    The guidelines from the Seth Siegelaub    undoubtedly of historical significance, but the   paintings ? There are many positive answers to
    catalogue seem the logical place to begin. Seth   artist was not altogether satisfied: 'My only   this question, but the logic of the negative is
    Siegelaub had rented an office-building in New   difficulty there was that I was still thinking in   undeniable.
    York; but it is reported that for him, the   terms of each crater being unique.'2  A   A somewhat later series of paintings suggests
    exhibition existed completely in the catalogue.1     fundamental difficulty of interpretation is that   a synthesis, 'All I had to do to a canvas to make
    Each artist was given four pages with Lawrence   these works take on a significance in the   a painting was to take a rectangle, remove a
    Weiner placed alphabetically at the end of the   hindsight of Lawrence Weiner's later   rectangle from it, preferably from the corner,
    guidelines occupying the last printed page   development and that of art generally that I   because that seemed the easiest way to do it,
    opposite a photograph of a 2in. wide tin, deep   suspect they would not have sustained in the   spray for a certain period of time with paint,
    trench cut out across a standard one car driveway   early sixties. Harold Rosenberg wrote at about   and then put a stripe on the bottom. I would ask
    from the collection (actual driveway) of Mr and   that time looking back over the previous decade:   the person who was receiving what colour he
    Mrs Robert M. Topol, Mamaroneck, NY. Over   `Another vanguard assumption taken up by   wanted, what size he wanted, and how big a
    the page is another photograph, of Two    Action Painting with fullest intensity was that   removal.'5
    minutes of spray paint directly upon the floor from   which demanded the demolition of existing   There is no reason why an assault on a canvas
    a standard aerosol spray can, opposite that the   values in art. The revolutionary phrase "doing   should be any less a gesture of romantic rhetoric
    list of eight works by Weiner in the exhibition.   away with" was heard with the frequency and   than a hole in the ground (I find it difficult to
      The format is the same for each artist. What   authority of a slogan. Each step in the   regard the slashed canvases of Lucio Fontana in
    distinguishes Lawrence Weiner's contribution   dismantling widened the area in which the   any other way), but deferring to the wishes of a
    is that the illustrations and titles are readily   artist could set in motion his critical-creative   patron (receiver) makes it as prosaic, as much a
    identifiable without the least need to follow up   processes, the irreducible human asset in a   matter of everyday fact as laying linoleum or
    references to catalogue numbers. The      situation where all superstructures are shaky. It   fitting a carpet. There is still a problem,
    photograph of the  2in. wide 1in. deep trench cut    had become appropriate to speak of the canvas     however.
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