Lawrence Weiner, Artist Whose Medium Was Language, Dies at 79

Yoshiko Yap

Lawrence Weiner, who used language as the content for a wide human body of visible art that operated exterior the boundaries of poetry and aphorism in a vernacular all its personal, often Delphic and typically hopeful about the human problem, died on Thursday at his dwelling and studio in Manhattan. He was 79.

The Marian Goodman Gallery, which had represented him for a lot more than 3 many years, announced the demise. The gallery did not cite a result in, but Mr. Weiner had been residing with most cancers for various years.

A pioneer of the Conceptual art motion — a description he spurned, preferring to simply call himself only a sculptor — Mr. Weiner came of age in the 1960s, all through art’s radical pivot away from objects and toward tips and steps as the foundation for a type of operate that shared considerable floor with philosophy, linguistics and anticapitalist politics. More than any other artist of that generation, Mr. Weiner settled on terms — stenciled on partitions and flooring, inscribed on manhole covers, printed on posters, billboards, guide pages, matchbook addresses, life preservers and T-shirts — as his métier.

Early on, the operates often functioned as bare-bones descriptions of actions that could be, but didn’t always have to be, executed to make physical manifestations of art — “A 36” X 36” Removing TO THE LATHING OR Help WALL OF PLASTER OR WALLBOARD FROM A WALL” “TWO MINUTES OF SPRAY PAINT Straight Upon THE Floor FROM A Typical AEROSOL SPRAY CAN.”

But as time went on, the pieces, which he described as “language + the materials referred to,” grew to become linked considerably less to conceivable situations and extra to states of currently being, language composition and abstract imagined: “AS Significantly AS THE EYE CAN SEE” “A Bit OF Issue AND A Small Little bit MORE” “(Generally Uncovered) Within just THE CONTEXT OF Efficiency / FROM Main TO Minimal/FROM Tiny TO Massive/.”

Of paramount value to him, he said, was the interaction between the get the job done and the viewers, who assumed appreciable duty in taking it in, pondering it and assimilating it into their have expertise, or seeking to. These kinds of an trade transpires with each individual do the job of art, of program. But Mr. Weiner (pronounced WEEN-er) viewed as his do the job very collaborative, a continuing rejoinder from what he referred to as the “aesthetic fascism” of the principles of the masterpiece and the genius that prevailed for generations.

If his operate was occasionally difficult to get a tackle on, even willfully abstruse, he reported it was for the reason that he himself was grappling messily with that means, which he thought of an artist’s basic cause for present.

“I was a single of those individuals who decided that the principle of remaining an artist was to be perplexed in community,” he advised the curator Donna De Salvo in 2007 on the situation of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York. “That was only the function of getting an artist, due to the fact the artist was to be invested in matters that did not have a pat remedy.”

In yet another discussion, provided in the assortment “Having Been Reported,” he set the thought more bluntly: “The only artwork I’m intrigued in is the artwork I never have an understanding of correct absent. If you fully grasp it correct absent, it truly has no use other than as nostalgia.”

Lawrence Charles Weiner was born on Feb. 10, 1942, in Manhattan and raised in the South Bronx, exactly where his mother and father, Harold and Toba (Horowitz) Weiner, ran a candy retailer. He explained his functioning-class upbringing as fundamentally joyful, even though he was working element time on the docks by the age of 12 to make further dollars and would later on recall currently being threatened with reform college for the reason that of different bouts of delinquency.

He was approved into the prestigious Stuyvesant Higher University in Manhattan and graduated at age 16. He then picked up odd work and wandered the place, imbibing the Conquer mentality and hoping to figure out what he wished to do, researching philosophy and experimenting sometimes with Expressionist painting.

In 1960, even though hitchhiking to California, he marked his progress by leaving modest sculptures on the roadside. In Mill Valley, close to San Francisco, he made with the support of buddies what he deemed to be his very first work, “Cratering Piece,” a kind of anti-sculpture fashioned by placing off a sequence of dynamite expenses that notched unauthorized cavities in the area of a point out park. In its particulars, that work prefigured substantially that was to arrive: general public, politically labile, created with sparse suggests and leaving no object behind.

The true epiphany arrived in 1968, throughout an exhibition at Windham College or university in Putney, Vt., with his fellow youthful artists Carl Andre and Robert Barry. Mr. Weiner, who was even now dabbling in minimalistic portray at the time, determined to make a spare outside sculpture by forming a grid with 34 wood stakes on a industry and connecting the stakes with twine. But it turned out that the field was utilised for touch-football video games, and the gamers rapidly did absent with what appeared to them to be some type of surveying arrangement — undoubtedly not artwork.

When Mr. Weiner noticed the dismantled piece, he later claimed, “It did not feel as if the philistines had carried out the function any unique hurt.” The work’s description, as a set of doable directions, all of a sudden grew to become adequate. “And that was it,” he claimed. “It surely didn’t constitute a explanation to go out and defeat any person up.”

Shortly afterward, he wrote a established of principles that served him and some of his fellow artists as a kind of Nicene Creed of Conceptualism: “The artist could build the piece. The piece may possibly be fabricated. The piece have to have not be constructed. Just about every becoming equivalent and constant with the intent of the artist, the determination as to affliction rests with the receiver on the celebration of receivership.”

In excess of the following couple of yrs, his function was included in a sequence of exhibitions that turned watersheds in the heritage of Conceptual artwork, together with “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Turn out to be Form” at the Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland, in 1969 “Information” at the Museum of Modern-day Art in New York, in 1970 and “Documenta 5” in Kassel, West Germany, in 1972.

Applying an modern contract formulated by the curator Seth Siegelaub and the lawyer Robert Projansky, Mr. Weiner bought his pieces in the form of files that gave entrepreneurs authorized possession of the idea and the independence to notice it in numerous approaches as they noticed match. He also selected a range of functions “public freeholds,” which could never be acquired or marketed and could be realized in session with him.

For several a long time, his do the job, inspite of common crucial admiration and a procession of awards, did minimal to help him financially. “The total trouble is that we acknowledged a extensive time ago that bricks can represent a sculpture,” he explained to the curator Benjamin Buchloh in 2017. “We accepted a extensive time back that fluorescent gentle could represent a painting. We have accepted all of this we accept a gesture as constituting a sculpture.”

But items go promptly south, he stated, “the moment you counsel that language by itself is a element in the producing of a sculpture.”

Mr. Weiner and his longtime spouse, Alice Zimmerman Weiner (they achieved in 1967 and married in 2003), raised their daughter, Kirsten, partly on a little boat, named the Joma, docked in Amsterdam, with no energy or running drinking water and little heat. “That was not uncomplicated and not enjoyment,” he mentioned in an interview with The New York Occasions in 2007. But he at some point grew to become a residence name in modern artwork, expanding the use of color and graphic-structure sorts in his lexicon and engendering parts in various languages in so several countries that his résumé go through additional like an atlas than a listing of functions.

He is survived by his wife and their daughter, Kirsten Vibeke Thueson Weiner, as very well as a sister, Eileen Judith Weiner, and a grandson. He lived in Manhattan’s West Village and Amsterdam.

In addition to his other operates, Mr. Weiner devoted significant time more than extra than 4 many years to experimental films and videos, which includes collaborations with the director Kathryn Bigelow.

Extended equipped with a Viking-like beard that appeared to go hand in hand with the identify of the distinct font he designed for himself, Margaret Seaworthy Gothic, Mr. Weiner was acknowledged for his humor and for his generosity towards young artists and pupils. In individual, he was an unconventional mix of performing-class grit and Pan-European sophistication, smoking ragged hand-rolled cigarettes and speaking in a rounded basso profundo overlaid with an unplaceable accent, 1 that experienced decidedly left the Bronx guiding.

In a discussion previous yr with the musician and artist Kim Gordon, trying to pin down the effect he hoped his perform attained, he mentioned:

“The amusing matter is, individuals make artwork for other men and women. The eyesight is to have a live performance, and when most people arrives out of the concert, they’re all whistling something. Which is not populist — that is just supplying any individual some thing they can use. And that’s why the perform that I make is about providing the world a little something it can use.”

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