Artist Rooms: Lawrence Weiner
- David Pollock
- 14 November 2018
Distinctive graphic design from New York's seminal conceptual artist
This is the first exhibition of the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland's jointly-acquired (from the d'Offay collection) Artist Rooms series to be seen at the McManus in Dundee, and as it transpires, the work of New York's seminal conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner is well-suited to this space. At a moment where all eyes are on Dundee thanks to the opening of the V&A, the McManus has risen to the challenge of local competition with some popular and imagination-grabbing special exhibits.
Here, the method of curation has allowed for some of Weiner's work to be positioned around the gallery, offering a kind of call-and-response, which highlights the art, the building and some of the other exhibits equally. Working from a map of the building, the visitor looks for some of Weiner's text pieces – all of those on display here are text works, although the artist created in a variety of media – and finds his words in white text against a blue background and black border in the stairwell ('Straight Down to Below'), adorning display cases filled with African jewellery ('Tied Up in Knots') and Dundonian textiles ('Roughly Ripped Apart'), and above the elevator ('Taken Up With').
In the main room of the exhibition, plenty of contextual material – including 'Statements', the 1968 artist's book which made Weiner's name – give a wider sense of his intentions and achievements, alongside further pieces of art. Reading about his working class roots and personal austerity which contributed to his work lends a rich perspective; and the sense that, in the absence of funds for materials, that creating 'sculpture' in printed text form was a means of not so much seizing the means of artistic production as shaping them to his needs. There are few artistic materials cheaper, after all, than words.
Publications, posters and prints, most of which emblazon Weiner's words with his own distinctive graphic design, fill this room, dancing around the main wall – which bears each of the ten text pieces shown around the gallery, but translated into Scots. Some might see this as a controversial decision, but lovers of words and language, who enjoy thinking about the tenses and placings of every single word the artist has used, should enjoy this bright new perspective upon them.
Artist Rooms: Lawrence Weiner, McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee, until Sun 17 Feb.