Conceptual art founder Lawrence Weiner (1942-2021) resisted established art all his life

Conceptual art founder Lawrence Weiner (1942-2021) resisted established art all his life

The artist, who passed away on Thursday, and who has lived alternately in the United States and Amsterdam, has been working as a self-made artist since the 1960s in an entirely unique work.

Rutger Pontzen

Conceptual art: It is and remains one of the most difficult artistic movements to explain, with its recorded ideas and images of encrypted words. Yet you can still imagine a lot of what American Lawrence Weiner said. Wiener, who passed away 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: “Dust plus water somewhere between heaven and earth.” Yes, that’s when you see a puddle of paint on the floor or a postcard of a chaotic landscape with a wide horizon.

The American godfather of conceptual art has spent his life partly in the United States and partly in a houseboat in Amsterdam, where you can regularly see him on the back of his signature beard.

A striking feature of his work, which he has steadily expanded since the 1960s, is how he applied his words and poetic sentences in colorful and cautious font on many walls, in the museum or outside, like Spoe in Amsterdam. You can recognize them by graceful handwriting or finely fixed capital letters, in Van Doesburg colors of red, blue, green, and yellow, painted or cast in bronze and fitted with all the punctuation found in the Western language.

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After 1967, Weiner, with colleagues Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari and Sol LeWitt, was at the core of American conceptions that wanted to do away with visual arts based solely on objects and appearance, or on the star stature of the Romantic painter and sculptor who wanted to convey the most individual expression of his individual feelings .

Wiener did not train as an artist at all. When he saw the mysterious work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, he thought: “If he could do it and end up in a museum, then anything is possible.” Moving from his hometown of New York to California, he began painting “bad Abstract Expressionists” and found that a broken work still led to the necessary conversation. The cause of the ground rules that Wiener laid down for the new movement in 1968 must be: ‘1. The artist can build the piece. 2. The piece may be fabricated. 3. The widget does not need to be built.

Wiener and colleagues have been more interested in the mechanism by which images and words arise, how they acquire their meaning, and how to manipulate the system behind them, so relevant in the age of deconstruction and studies of nascent language. One of the systems the artists wanted to change was the capitalist system: by materializing art, it would no longer be a game of speculation and trade – also a typical idea of ​​the 1960s.

Lawrence Weiner, May 1971, Westerdock, Amsterdam.Peter Borsma’s photo

However, every museum of modern art takes itself very seriously and every art city has now got its “Weiner”. Sometimes this is baffling, sometimes it stimulates the imagination, sometimes as an abstract intellectual exercise, and sometimes as a very concrete guide.

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My favorite: As far as the eye can seeThe simple recommendation to rub your eyes hard for all there is to see about art and social significance. But the most memorable example is the text Shattered to pieces (in the quiet of the night), Presented by Wiener in English and German on a Former Nazi Anti-Aircraft Tower in Vienna: Words Recalling the Horrors of Kristallnacht 1938.

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