Lawrence Weiner's text-based installations and works on paper typically show the phrases and sentences described in their titles, which range from instructions to enigmatic observations. Weiner described his works as 'language + the materials referred to', emphasising the role of language as a material for construction in his practice.Read More
In 1964, Weiner began exhibiting with Seth Siegelaub's gallery in New York City, a relationship that witnessed a number of significant developments in his practice.
These include A series of stakes set in the ground at regular intervals to form a rectangle with twine strung from stake to stake to demark a grid—a rectangle, removed from this rectangle, an outdoor installation presented as part of an exhibition Siegelaub organised at Windham College in Putney, Vermont in 1968. The work was constructed in a field used by football players, who unknowingly cut down the twine; instead of viewing the incident as a destruction of his piece, however, Weiner decided that the description of the artwork—in the title—could provide the viewer with an adequate experience of the artwork.
Following A series of stakes, Weiner continued to use text in place of the art object to create artworks. Statements (1968), an artist's book published by Siegelaub, contains 24 text-based pieces including Declaration of Intent, which laid out the principles of his subsequent works and became influential in Conceptual art.
According to the declaration, 'the artist may construct the piece', but 'the piece need not be built'. In this scenario, the artist does not necessarily create the artwork; it is the viewer who may assume that responsibility. Many of Weiner's text-based works are indeed instructions for a process, such as Many Colored Objects Placed Side by Side to Form a Row of Many Colored Objects (1982), in which capitalised letters in blue appear diagonally across white background, framed by black lines.
Weiner also worked with film, which he considered to be a collaborative practice, as the artist revealed in his 2020 conversation with musician and friend Kim Gordon. His collaborators include director Kathryn Bigelow, whom he first worked with in the 1970s, as well as Michael Oblowitz and Gerrit Hilhorst.
Like his text-based works, Weiner's films and videos subvert the conventions associated with the film-viewing experience. Done To (1974), for example, a short film produced with Bigelow, contrasts footage of a woman's face and two women sitting side by side with an audio track consisting of a conversational female voice and strict, almost robotic male and female voices, preventing the viewer from constructing a cohesive narrative from the work.