Robert Barry: Words and Music (3 stars)

Robert Barry: Words and Music

When an artist has been around long enough to obtain the luxury of reputation, all new work is read against the history of their practice. After five decades, it comes as no surprise that Glasgow was eager to see Robert Barry’s work in the flesh.

The show starts on the outside of the building where one can see parts of his vinyl words across the windows. These glittering silver letters continue inside to form words from all angles on the walls, across the ceiling and floor, transforming each room and corridor space into a cube of text, spelling out the likes of ‘anticipation’, ‘purpose’, ‘meaning’, and ‘inevitable’.

The words then lead to a black and white video in the corner upstairs where fellow artist William Anastasi is playing the piano in his studio. With his back to us he is the amateur pianist, we are the voyeurs. It is a classic composition: a painting on an easel in the foreground and a bookcase with books in the middle ground lead the eye to Anastasi as the focal point at his upright piano in the background. The frame is fixed, but superimposed across the screen runs a changing set of words ranging from ‘somehow’ to ‘familiar’, and so on.

Linguistic meaning is the central concept here, but his choice of words is mundane, as if to erase significance from it completely. They remain everyday words, denoting concepts that are so general that they would depend entirely on other words for any connotation.

The Common Guild, Glasgow, until Sat 6 Nov

Robert Barry: Words and Music

  • 3 stars

New, site-specific installation from the pioneering 1970s conceptual artist, comprising several of his characteristic 'word spaces', large textual installations on the walls, windows and floors of the gallery.

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