Dennis Oppenheim The Diamond Cutter’s Wedding 1980

Artwork details

Artist
Dennis Oppenheim born 1938
Title
The Diamond Cutter’s Wedding
Date 1980
Medium Lithograph on paper
Dimensions Support: 970 x 1270 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1983
Reference
P07939
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

Dennis Oppenheim born 1938

P07939 The Diamond Cutter's Wedding 1980

Lithograph 838 x 1267 (33 x 49 7/8) on wove paper 968 x 1267 (38 1/8 x 49 7/8); printed by Campioni Studio, New York and published by Galerie Marika Malacorda, Geneva, 1980; artist's proof aside from the edition of 46
Inscribed ‘Dennis Oppenheim' below image bottom centre, ‘1980' below image b.r. and ‘AP 17/46' below image b.r.; printed inscription ‘THE DIAMOND CUTTERS WEDDING 1979 | PROJECT FOR A.R.C., PARIS' and other words (see below) b.r. of image
Purchased from Galerie Marika Malacorda, Geneva (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Lit: Steve Wood, ‘An Interview with Dennis Oppenheim', Arts Magazine, vol.55, June 1981, pp.133-7; Emily Braun, ‘Dennis Oppenheim: The Factories', Arts Magazine, vol.55, June 1981, pp.138-41; Robert Ayres, ‘Dennis Oppenheim', Art Monthly, no.56, May 1982, pp.17-19; Robert Ayres, unpublished interview with the artist, edited and circulated in typescript by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, April 1982; Dennis Oppenheim, exh.cat, ARC, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, December 1980; Machineworks, exh.cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, March-April 1981, pp.49-51 and p.55; Nehama Guralnik, ‘From Factories to Fireworks - Technology as a Poetic Extension of the Mind in the Work of Dennis Oppenheim' in Dennis Oppenheim, Factories, Fireworks 1979-1984, exh.cat., Tel Aviv Museum, 1984 [pp.7-11]
Repr: Big Prints, an Arts Council Exhibition of Prints by European and American Artists, exh.cat. AC tour, Southampton Art Gallery, 1982, p.28. no.23

The complete text on this work reads:

THE DIAMOND CUTTERS WEDDING 1979 | PROJECT FOR A.R.C. PARIS. | ANGLED LAUNCH WITH STEEL TRACKS CARRIES TWO RAW | MATERIAL PROJECTILE SLEDS, PULLED BACK WITH HEAVY RUBBER STRAPS AND AIMED AT THE WIRE MESH | TEMPLATE WALL. MIDDLE UNIT CONSISTS OF GASOLINE POWERED | PASSENGER VEHICLE, ALSO MOUNTED ON STEEL TRACKS. | IMMEDIATELY BEHIND PRIMARY TEMPLATE WALL WITH GEOMETRIC | CUT OUT IS AN ELECTRICALLY POWERED PENDULUM, OR CUTTING | DEVICE. THIS DEVICE PASSES BACK AND FORTH DIRECTLY ABOVE COLLISION | TRACKS. BEYOND THIS POINT BEGINS THE SERIES OF HANGING SCREEN | OR MATERIAL SEPARATORS, EACH CONTROLLED BY COUNTERWEIGHTS AND | PULLEYS. THESE VARIOUS SIZED MESH SCREENS ARE PIERCED WITH | OCCASIONAL STREAKS, ALLOWING THE INPUT FLOW TO CORRESPOND. NEXT IS THE | FINAL SERIES OF MOBILE DIVIDERS CAPABLE OF ADJUSTMENT, EACH EQUIPPED WITH A BARN DOOR APPARATUS ALLOWING MATERIAL CONTROL. THE RECEIVING UNIT | AT THE END ROTATES, CARRYING A SERIES OF SIEVES OR RECEPTACLE BINS AIDED | BY SEVERAL EXCESS BINS BELOW THE GROUND.

The text on P07939 indicates that this is a project conceived for A.R.C. (Animation, Recherche, Confrontation) at the Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris. According to the chronological list of Oppenheim's machine works given in the exhibition catalogue, the project described in this print, ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding', was the tenth machine work to be made by Oppenheim in 1979. It was first installed at the Galerie Francois Lambert, Milan, in December 1979. Following this, it was exhibited in Dublin (ROSC '80 the Poetry of Vision, School of Architecture in University College Dublin and National Gallery of Ireland Dublin, July-Sept. 1980, 70, repr. p.83). The artist's assistant told the compiler (letter 3 August 1988) that ‘In the process of having the work shipped back to Françoise Lambert in Milan after the show in Dublin, the sculpture was lost in customs, and assumed to have been destroyed. The work was subsequently rebuilt following the original plans, for the exhibition in the Tel Aviv Museum in September 1984. The exhibition at ARC in Paris followed the one at Françoise Lambert by several weeks (Dec.1980-Jan.1981) and therefore the drawing was inscribed ‘for ARC, PARIS)'.

It is described as consisting of cord, fibreglass, a high powered butane heater, netting, a pendulum, pulleys, steel, wire, mesh, and wood and measuring 13 x 12 x 60 feet. Four installation photographs of the sculpture are reproduced in the catalogue for Oppenheim's exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum, in 1984 [pp.42-43]. The work itself was installed in this exhibition (no.I) and the exhibition also included a drawing for the project ‘Diamond Cutter's Wedding. Project for ARC, Paris 1979' (960 x 1270, 37 3/4 x 50 no. 22).

A drawing for ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' was also exhibited in the exhibition, Machineworks (Don Wall, repr. no. 62). The dimensions given for this work, 38 x 50 1/8 correspond closely with those of P07939. The inscription is shorter than that in P07939 but again indicates that the original project was designed for ARC in Paris. The remainder of the information reads:

Launch with raw material (coal) | and passenger vehicle, mounted on steel blades, wire mesh templates (primary stage) | pulled back rubber straps | electric pendulum in front | of cross tracks, hanging transparent templates | proceed mobile dividing units which empty into revolving station or collector | excess bins are located in the ground nearby.


An installation photograph of the machine itself, when it was on view at the Galerie Françoise Lambert in Milan, is reproduced in the same catalogue (p.30). Another drawing of the same subject (an annotated blueprint without an elaborate inscription) is reproduced in the Paris exhibition catalogue, [p.13].

In 1981, in an interview given to Steve Wood, Oppenheim commented on his tendency to draw on systems outside art (for example, physics) in his work, specifically citing the installations to which P07939 relates:

It is possible to see equivalents for many of the actions of the machines in extra art systems (pieces like ‘Diamond Cutter's Wedding' ...). It really has to do with how art can be used. The approaches that artists have used within the past, say 100 years, reveal a variety of uses ... Style is a by-product from a set of beliefs that have informed art for some time ... The energies behind every work, not the stylistic abstraction, have been fairly consistent for some time. I see the art process, like the machine process, as operating with an energy flash, as the mind does when producing an idea. Launching structures such as the conveyor belt in ‘Way Station for Launching an Obsolete Power' or the two raised ramps in ‘Diamond Cutter's Wedding', which refer to delivery, thought delivery - also in ‘Diamond Cutter's Wedding', the assembly line, the processing system, the coupling of elements emphasized my concern with the internal dynamics of thought process, making physical the extra-visual forces that proceed art making, that form thoughts.


During the installation of his exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham in 1982 (Dennis Oppenheim ‘Vibrating Forest', April- May 1982) the artist compared ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' with his most recent project ‘Vibrating Forest':

In ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' the interesting thing was to consider the retention of the raw material, the fact that it was held back and retained.

In The Diamond Cutter's Wedding you're relying on building up that associative power in the mind. As you're looking at this thing being held back, you're able to scan those elements in terms of a real substantial reference of associations ... ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' had moving elements, it had a pendulum and it had revolving sieves and moulds - it was very Duchampian in that sense - so it did reveal its anatomy in a sense. But it maintained a power that is being dangerously placated in ‘Vibrating Forest'. I'm very aware of that. But as you say, the use of the rockers is an advance because ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' is rather simple, very coherent, it's almost like a production line but at that point I wanted to be... well not didactic, but certainly I wanted not to be too obscure about the thing. So there's a logic there and a system of connections that ‘Vibrating Forest' would want to avoid. This is more about disconnections and particularly more about systems gone out of control.

One could say that ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' was an armature, a surrogate, a metaphor for mental activity, or for creative process in a very kind of raw sense. In its network of elements it could, by association, bring to mind counterparts to mental journeys. This work however, and all the firework pieces, treat the armature as a truly secondary structure for hallucination, physical hallucination. ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' did treat the structure as a secondary thing to the mind, but in these works they literally want to be simple armatures for projection. So the projection is the notational sign system that refers to a thought, whereas in ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' the industrial architectural images were surrogates for the psychic. (Oppenheim and Ayers, 1982).

When Oppenheim installed ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' in Tel Aviv in 1984 (the sculpture has remained in Israel), it was described in the catalogue as one of Oppenheim's most important early ‘Factory' works:

‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' appears to be an installation for the cutting, processing and refining of freshly-mined raw materials. The operation is conducted in four stages: the initial launch, which includes the sources of energy (coal, gas burners), the transmission and processing stages (rails), the cutting, straining and refining (screens, wire-mesh) and finally the collection (revolving strainers). The process begins at the elevated launching point where the raw material is placed on sleds held by tautly stretched rubber straps which resemble a primitive slingshot. If freed, these sleds would shoot downward like missiles, but they remain in a state of readiness while the viewer is left only with a sense of expectation, imagining the process were it to be set in motion. The rails leading from the sleds cross one another, their paths bisected and disrupted. The suspended screens and wire-mesh are ready to sift and refine the material. At the receiving station, several closed containers resembling ovens wait to collect the strained material. It is clear to the viewer that whatever enters these ‘ovens' will not emerge in the same condition. And finally, on a merry-go-round, several round wooden strainers at the end of the track give the material a final touch ...

While the earlier works, among them ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding', were operated cautiously and held their energy in check, the later works became more dynamic in their physical use of time (Nehama Guralnik 1984, [p.9]).

A model for ‘The Diamond Cutter's Wedding' was exhibited at the Lewis Johnstone Gallery, London in 1982 (Dennis Oppenheim drawings, 1979-1982, April-May, no catalogue) and is now in the permanent collection of the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst in Gent, Belgium.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.570-2


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