Barry Flanagan
june 2 ‘69 1969

Artwork details

Artist
Barry Flanagan 1941–2009
Title
june 2 ‘69
Date 1969
Medium Canvas and wood
Dimensions Object: 2921 x 5080 x 889 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1973
Reference
T01717

Summary

june 2 ’69 1969 is a sculpture by Irish artist Barry Flanagan. It consists of a rectangular sheet of flax cloth and three poles made of hazel branches, each of which has been sharpened to a point at its tip. The hazel branches rest against the wall supporting the flax at three roughly equidistant points along its upper edge. The reverse of the flax has been inscribed by the artist ‘june 2 ’69 / flanagan’ along with instructions for the assembly of the work, while one branch is inscribed ‘centre pole’ and shows an arrow at the top.

Flanagan described the assembly process for the work to Tate curator Richard Morphet in 1973, the year in which june 2 ’69 was acquired by Tate. Morphet recorded these instructions in notes from the interview:

The sharp points of the three branches are inserted into the three holes in the sheet of flax from its front side. The longest branch is inserted through its central hole, the other two branches are interchangeable. The sheet of flax is then raised and laid against the wall in such a way that the spiked top of each branch rests against the wall while the bottom edge of the sheet of flax hangs above and parallel with the floor at an average distance of 9 inches from the floor. Carrying out these instructions determines the positions at which the blunt ends of the branches rest on the floor.
(Richard Morphet, interview with Barry Flanagan, 1973, Tate Archive TG 4/2/339/1.)

june 2 ’69 is one of a series of works made by Flanagan in 1969 that incorporate flax and hazel or bamboo branches. Several of the sculptures from the series, including june 8 ’69 1969, aug 3 ’69 1969 and aug 8 ’69 1969, were exhibited in Flanagan’s first institutional solo exhibition, Barry Flanagan: Object Sculptures, at the Museum Hans Lange in Krefeld, Germany from September to October 1969. june 2 ’69 was exhibited as part of the seminal conceptual art exhibition When Attitudes Become Form at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London from August to September 1969.

Tate curator Clarrie Wallis has observed that during this period Flanagan wanted to rid his works of ‘all but the physical facts’ so that they had what Flanagan called their own ‘material reality’ (quoted in Wallis 2011, p.22). Flanagan’s intention is highlighted, Wallis suggests, by his use of codes to title his early sculptures, such as heap 1 ’67 1967, bundle 2 ’67 1967 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) and Pile 1 ’67/’68 1967–8 (Tate T01716). These titles are, Wallis indicates, ‘literal definitions of actions and objects linked by process’ (Wallis 2011, p.22). Flanagan himself acknowledged the priority of process in his works of the 1960s, writing in a 1966 artist’s statement that ‘the business is in the making’ (see Barry Flanagan, exhibition leaflet, Rowan Gallery, London 1966, unpaginated). Writing ahead of his solo exhibition at the Museum Haus Lange in 1969, he added:

If the convention of painting carries information (perhaps information about its own historical/new convention), this piece carries information about poles holding canvas up to a wall and the shapes its own weight makes. It relys [sic] on nothing we already know for its visual & physical existence. It is a sculpture. It has its own reality.
(Flanagan in Barry Flanagan: Object Sculptures, exhibition catalogue, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld 1969, p.9.)

Chance, gravity and action are central to Flanagan’s sculptures of the late 1960s, particularly the series from 1969 which employs flax and hazel. In this work, Flanagan addresses the necessity of new possibilities for sculpture, which for him rest in the ability of sculpture to divorce itself from received tradition and convention and rely solely on materiality and process for the construction of meaning.

Further reading
The Tate Gallery 1972–4: Biennial Report and Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1975, pp.134–5.
Clarrie Wallis, ‘The Business is in the Making’, in Barry Flanagan: Early Works 1965–1982, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2011, pp.11–35.
Barry Flanagan: Early Works 1965–1982, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2011, reproduced pp.82–3.

Judith Wilkinson
March 2016