The artist who died on Thursday, who lived alternately in the United States and Amsterdam, has been working on his own since the 1960s on a totally idiosyncratic work.
Conceptual art: This is and remains one of the most difficult art movements to explain, with its recorded thoughts and cryptic word images. And yet, one could still imagine a lot of things from what the American Lawrence Weiner said about it. Weiner, who died last Thursday at the age of 79, is considered one of the founders of conceptual art. For example, what did he say about this art form? “Two minutes of spray paint directly on the floor”. Or this one: “Dust plus water placed somewhere between heaven and earth”. Yes, then you see a puddle of paint on the floor or a postcard of a messy view with a wide horizon.
The American godfather of concept art has spent his life partly in the United States and partly on a houseboat in Amsterdam, where he could regularly be seen on deck with his signature beard.
A striking feature of his work, which he gradually expanded from the 1960s onwards, is the way he applied his poetic words and phrases in carefully hand-lettered and colored calligraphy on many walls, in the museum or outdoors. , as on the Spui in Amsterdam. You can recognize them by the graceful script or the static capital letters, in the Van Doesburg colors of red, blue, green and yellow, painted or cast in bronze and provided with all the punctuation marks that the Western language possesses.
After 1967, Weiner, along with his colleagues Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari and Sol LeWitt, belonged to the hard core of American conceptualism which wanted to get rid of visual arts based solely on objects and appearance, or on the star status of the romantic painter. . and sculptor who wanted to convey the most individual expression of his most individual feeling.
Weiner himself was not trained as an artist at all. When he saw an enigmatic work by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, he said to himself: “If he can do this and he ends up in a museum, then anything is possible. He moved from his native New York to California, started doing “bad abstract expressionist paintings” and discovered that one of his broken works still gave rise to needed conversation. This must have been the reason for the basic rules Weiner laid down for the new movement in 1968: “1. The artist can build the piece. 2. The part can be crafted. 3. The part does not need to be built.
Rightly in an age of deconstructivism and nascent linguistic studies, Weiner and his associates were more interested in the mechanism by which images and words arise, how they acquire meaning, and how to manipulate the “system” behind them. One of the systems the artists wanted to change was the capitalist system: by dematerializing art, it would no longer be a toy for speculation and commerce – also a typical idea of the 1960s.
Nevertheless, every modern art museum that takes itself seriously and every art city has a “Weiner”. Sometimes confusing, sometimes stimulating the imagination, sometimes like an abstract thought exercise, sometimes like an extremely concrete clue.
My favorite: As far as the eye can see, the simple recommendation to rub your eyes for all that can be seen about art and social significance. But the most memorable example is the text Broken to pieces (in the quiet of the night), which Weiner had applied in English and German to a former Nazi anti-aircraft tower in Vienna: words referring to the horrors of Kristallnacht in 1938.
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