Museum Studies 3: Lawrence Weiner
December 7, 1994 - February 5, 1995Lawrence Weiner has been using language as his medium since the 1960s. He uses words in the context of visual art, rather than poetry or literature, to make works about familiar materials and processes. By naming and ordering these subjects in simple statements, Weiner's work draws attention to the relationships among these materials and processes and, by extension, to viewers' own relationships to these parts of the environment. When Weiner developed his language-based work during the 1960s, artists were overturning conventional limits of mediums and the places of presentation considered acceptable for visual art. Weiner has presented his work in a broad range of forms, including installations, drawing, video, film, posters, books, and recordings. He likens his works to performances or tattoos--they can reappear in a variety of locations, formats, and mediums without altering the initial structure or intent. This project for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, using the text COPPER & NICKEL & SWEAT MIXED UPON THE GROUND, was originally conceived by the artist for the empty pediment on the outside of the Museum building, flanking the East Courtyard. For its realization inside the Museum, in a gallery modeled after an Italian Renaissance chapel and now housing a renowned collection of sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and paintings by Piet Mondrian, the artist has repeated his original text with variations in each of the six balcony-level niches.
John B. Ravenal