• Lw_2

    Portrait by Jeremy Liebman

  • Lw_3
  • Lw_4
Art

Issue #6: Lawrence Weiner Interview

Posted by Alex Moshakis,

It’s Nice That Issue #6 is released on Thursday. To celebrate, we’ll be sharing exclusive excerpts from a few of the magazine’s interviews and features throughout the week. The first snippet is taken from an exciting (and slightly intimidating, such is his articulacy) conversation with Lawrence Weiner. One of the foremost conceptual artists, Weiner has, since the 1960s, continued to explore and challenge the nature of art’s existence, its cultural status and its function…

It’s Nice That: You were on the road a lot when you were younger, and you worked a number of different jobs. How did you first come to be an artist?

Lawrence Weiner: That’s really quite simple. I was involved with civil rights at a very young age. And because of the economy at the time I had to find various jobs. Immediately I was interacting with a number of artists through whom I discovered an interest in art. As a kid, I would hit the bars at 4 o’clock in the morning because I worked at night, and I found these people who were involved in the same existential things that I was – the same things I had discovered from reading as a child in the South Bronx. Of course, the interesting thing for me was that I couldn’t pronounce anything. I pronounced Camus “Kǽməs”, not “Camoo”. But I learnt to understand. I found a group of older people – I mean quite old for a kid, a teenager – and I began to take part in these conversations.

I spent quite a bit of my youth deciding whether I was going to try to change the culture as a whole, or whether I was going to continue to try and change each individual horrendous thing that was going on in the world. Most artists are essentially outer-directed rather than inner-directed. There’s an old-fashioned, romantic idea that the artist has an urge inside, but if you have something you want to say, you simply look for a form to say it with. In my case, I could either say it with a baseball bat at a demonstration or I could say it by making something.

So how exactly did your first works come about? CRATERING PIECE, for example. This was in 1960, and involved you blowing things up in a national park, creating craters and calling them sculptures.

I’m still very pleased with that piece, but I was only 17 or 18 at the time and I misread what I was doing. I thought each individual explosion was an individual sculpture, and they weren’t. It was my means of creation at that moment, and it was a way of filling my means of anger, I guess, at the world. Art, I think, always comes from an anger with the specific configuration that’s presented to you. It’s not terribly intellectual. There is no deep down emotional attachment.

What’s interesting, in hindsight, is this quite drastic shift into painting. CRATERING PIECE was followed by the Propeller Series, a number of paintings which seem so different both in medium and intent.

I totally agree. It’s interesting because it’s a very, very long time ago, and I don’t remember if the intent was the same, although I believe I thought it was at the time. The Propeller paintings were taken from a television screen when it was closed off at night. There was a test pattern which, by chance, happened to look like a nuclear pattern. I guess the intent was the same – it was essentially an attempt to take an object and build that object into a form of meaning that had very little to do with the object itself. Now think of the times, think of my age. I was influenced by people like Jasper Johns – people basically trying to deal with putting content within the context of everyday life.

When did you start dismissing these more traditional notions of painting?

I don’t think I ever dismissed them. STATEMENTS, for example, the book I made when I first realised there was a problem with form, contains a lot of things that refer to the everyday life of a painter. I never really dismissed that life. My colleagues at the time included Robert Ryman, a painter, and I was friendly with many people who were making so-called paintings. I had nothing against painting, but it was no longer the means through which I could communicate to people. There’s no simpler way of putting it. We try to find our own syntax. It is the same in fashion. In fashion you are not rejecting something, but instead you’re trying to find a syntax that suits you better.

Read the full interview in It’s Nice That Issue #6, released on Thursday.
Portrait by Jeremy Liebman.

Portrait8

Posted by Alex Moshakis

Alex originally joined It’s Nice That as a designer but moved into editorial and oversaw the It’s Nice That magazine from Issue Six (July 2011) to Issue Eight (March 2012) before moving on that summer.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List-welcome_to_neu_friedenwald_by-laura-jung

    To say that the announcement from David Lynch that Twin Peaks was returning was met with excitement is something of an understatement. It was, as is to be expected, met with rabid levels of hysteria – or at least as rabid as those cool enough to adore the show would willingly articulate – and we’re still a good year away from seeing it on screen. This year is the show’s 25-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion, something very special is afoot in Berlin.

  2. Samchirnside-int-list

    I don’t know what it is about seeing colours up close that’s so mesmerising, but Sam Chirnside is all over it. The Melbourne and New York-based artist works predominantly with oil paints to create strangely beautiful distortions, which work best when overlaid with a band logo to create album artwork, or cut out in geometric shapes. His works resemble planetary compositions straight out of a senior school physics textbook or a happy spillage in an art classroom, and we can’t get enough of them.

  3. Jacksmith-npg-int-list

    For the first time ever a show at the National Portrait Gallery in London contains no human faces. Jack Smith: Abstract Portraits which opened late last week is the first exhibition in the gallery’s 159-year history that includes no figurative portraits as Smith’s work is made up of abstract shapes and colours. Of course there’s nothing new about the idea of a portrait being something other than a traditional head and shoulders painting, but it is noteworthy that one of London’s leading galleries should take such a decisive step.

  4. Benjamin-dittrich-int-list

    German graphic artist Benjamin Dittrich is principally concerned with scale at both a micro and macro level. He preoccupies himself with subjects as large as the cosmos and as minute as molecular structures, zooming in and out in his textural works to reveal vast and complex systems. His retro-futuristic work is breathtakingly complex, utilising painted and printed layers to launch you though time and space. He’s got a new show opening at Spinnerei Archiv Massiv tonight in Leipzig, which if you’re based nearby we’d urge you to get down to. Utterly beautiful stuff!

  5. Chyrumlambert-port-2-int_copy

    Los Angeles-based artist Chyrum Lambert uses formal constraints like grid systems and scalpel blades to contain and compose his paintings made up of cut-and-paste figures, patterns and abstract narratives.

  6. Blamey-ct-6-int

    David Blamey, the artist who founded publisher Open Editions, has authored the first release from Continuous Tone, a series of sound works that treat the medium as a viable space for the production of art.

  7. Nathalie-due-pasquier-int-list-3

    Nathalie Du Pasquier is a figure who seems to leave a trail of intrigue behind her everywhere she goes. This is largely because, as a founding member of the Memphis group (an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan in 1981) she’s been an unstoppable force in shaping the design world as we know it, colours, angles, ideas and all. But it’s also partly because her work is just so much fun.

  8. Escape-to-destiny-1mehdi-ghadyanloo-int-list

    Merging the style of the early 20th Century surrealists with contemporary street art, Tehran-based artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s work is strange and beguiling. He’s currently in London, busying himself with the mammoth task of creating murals all around the capital, including one measuring a whopping 3.4km. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also showing at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, in an exhibition entitled Perception.

  9. List

    Highbrow folk like us often find the traditional emoticon can struggle to express how we really feel. We don’t ALWAYS want to convey that we’re blindly happy, crying with laughter or horizontally-lipped and nonplussed. Sometimes, we need something a little more creative. Thank the lord, then, that Hyo Hong has come up with just the solution, in the form of the multifaceted (in its truest sense) Cindy Sherman-icon.

  10. Art-belikov-int-list

    I can’t tell you a whole lot about Lithuanian artist Art Belikov other than he’s 24 years old and, er, Lithuanian. And that all his images are fantastical digital creations. But in spite of the lack of background information currently available to me I’d just like to say that his work is extraordinary. He’s a maker of 3D rendered images depicting scenes borrowed from late 90s sci-fi; all “vintage” cell phones and games consoles, cans of mysterious energy drinks and designer bottled water. There’s a 666 in his URL too so you can be sure he’s a cool guy! When we finally track the man down we’ll ask him some questions about what it all means, but for now just drink in the eerie beauty of his digital creations.

  11. Jessica-brilli-int-17

    If when you close your eyes at night you dream of tying a silk kerchief over your carefully curled ’do and hopping in a classic Chevy to sail down the West Coast, you might find yourself as enamoured as I do with the work of painter Jessica Brilli. She favours endless-seeming roads and vintage cars for her expressive oil paintings, and she’s got recreating them on canvas down to a fine art. Her landscapes are dream-like in their expansiveness and colour palette, while her portraits seems to hark back to an era when a Chevy was still commonplace and kerchiefs were still pretty cool. And a little picturesque fantasy never hurt anybody, eh?

  12. London-is-changing-intlist

    Public art project London is Changing makes Londoners uncomfortably aware of the truths we’re perhaps trying to ignore: that our city is morphing beyond recognition, that creativity is at risk, and that for many people, it’s simply becoming unaffordable.

  13. Bensanders-potdealer-3-int_copy

    While keeping himself busy with postmodern Howard Hodgkin-esque painting and collage work, Ben Sanders is somehow finding the time to paint funny faces on ceramics. Cutting through the “worthy lifestyle” pottery trend with googly eyes, zigzag nostrils and creepy grins, Ben has stamped his sense of humour and aesthetic all over these thriving succulents’ homes.