BAMPFA’s newest commission for the Art Wall features a work by Lawrence Weiner, a central figure of Conceptual art. Like many other artists who began working in the late 1960s and 1970s, Weiner is deeply interested in methods of display that challenge the assumption that the work of art exists as a discrete object in the physical world.
Although Weiner is from New York and has been based there for many years, the Bay Area holds an important place in the trajectory of his career: he made his first work of art here in 1960, when he arranged and set off dynamite charges in a field in Mill Valley. In 1968, after developing a systematic approach to painting, he decisively turned to language as the material for works of art. When an installation he made in Vermont (also situated in a field) was damaged during the course of the exhibition, he came to the conclusion that the description of the work, or its rendering in linguistic form, “was sufficient.” Shortly thereafter, he developed his renowned “Statement of Intent,” which specifies: “(1) The artist may construct the piece. (2) The piece may be fabricated. (3) The piece may 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.]”
Since the 1970s, wall installations, inscribed with statements written by the artist, have been a primary medium for Weiner. The lettering can be fabricated by anyone as long as the artist’s instructions are followed. For his BAMPFA commission Weiner considers the specific location and architecture of the site to determine the compositional arrangement of the block lettering, which hovers at the center of the expansive white wall above the Crane Forum’s wooden steps. The text reads: “LAID OUT ON THE BANKS OF A RIVER LEANING TOWARDS THE OCEAN LAID OUT ON THE BANKS OF A RIVER LEANING TOWARDS THE LAND.” The words are set in red banners with ragged edges that tilt slightly, echoing the angle of the steps while also conjuring forms of the natural landscape.