LAWRENCE WEINER: A Selection from the Vancouver Art Gallery Archive of Lawrence Weiner Posters
Lawrence Weiner uses words as the primary material of his art. As one of the founding fathers of conceptualism, he announced his principles in 1968 in a manifesto of sorts, his now (in)famous Declaration of Intent, which succinctly captures the important notion that the idea is the work and the corresponding physical object is an unnecessary requirement for something to be considered art:
1. The artist may construct the piece.
2. The piece may be fabricated.
3. The piece need not be built.
A very similar text is found on a poster that leads off the exhibition at SFU Art Gallery where you can see 30 works – posters to be exact – celebrating Weiner’s endlessly inventive use of language which is the foundation on which his practice rests. The works on view are all borrowed from the VAG which is home to the Lawrence Weiner Poster Archive, the repository of the complete collection of his posters. Weiner makes a poster for each solo exhibition he has, and with someone as in demand as he is, this means his archive holds hundreds of them. For this show, Director/Curator Bill Jeffries selected 30 which contain propositions or statements in Weiner’s signature uppercase font, some of which are strangely lyrical such as “WE ARE SHIPS AT SEA NOT DUCKS ON A POND” and others that are laugh-out-loud funny such as “IF YOU SHIT ON THE FLOOR IT GETS ON YOUR FEET”.
Weiner’s text, however, is not just a declaration. As with any other material employed by an artist, it is moulded and shaped and its colour, size, form and configuration is as critical to delivering Weiner’s message as the meaning of the words themselves. This small sample of his larger body of work on view demonstrates the way he integrates words with punctuation, colour and shapes to affect the meaning of his statements, and his transformative ability to create visually arresting compositions using the most economical means. Jeffries has combined Weiner’s posters with some of his epigrammatic statements on posters and design, displayed as an oddly poetic large-scale vinyl wall text, which lends further insight into his use of this somewhat unusual media for an artist of his extraordinary stature. The text supports Weiner’s strategy of subverting the conventional ideas of art as hand-made and unique, and applauds the democracy of posters stating:
POSTERS ARE IN FACT WRITINGS ON THE WALL
WITH THE ADVENT OF INEXPENSIVE PRINTING PROCESSES THESE
WALLS ARE WITHIN THE GRAPS OF ALL THAT HAVE WHAT TO SAY
His posters are an ode to the importance of language, as well as an affirmation of the democratic possibilities of art.