- Vinyl wall text
- Overall display dimensions variable
- Purchased 2005
Lawrence Weiner is one of the chief protagonists in the development of Conceptual Art. In the 1960s he was a key figure in expanding the definition of a work of art. Along with his contemporaries including Joseph Kosuth (born 1945; see Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version 1965, Tate T01909) and Douglas Huebler (1924-1997; see Variable Piece No. 44 1971, Tate P07234), Weiner challenged the notion that an artwork had to consist of a definite physical object, contending instead that it could comprise a concept or idea with which the viewer would be invited to engage. Weiner’s practice focuses on this interaction between artwork and viewer or, in his terminology, the ‘receiver’ of the work of art. The principles underlying his art were outlined in a ‘statement of intent’ that Weiner first published in 1969:
1. THE ARTIST MAY CONSTRUCT THE WORK
2. THE WORK MAY BE FABRICATED
3. THE WORK NEED NOT BE BUILT
EACH BEING EQUAL AND CONSISTENT WITH THE INTENT OF THE ARTIST THE DECISION AS TO CONDITION RESTS WITH THE RECEIVER UPON THE OCCASION OF RECEIVERSHIP
Weiner’s particular contribution to Conceptual Art was in his use of language. He is best known for his ‘statements’ of which this work is an example. Weiner’s statements do not have any particular physical form in themselves. They exist as language with the potential to be displayed or acted out. Weiner’s statements have taken the form of text inscribed in gallery or public spaces, spoken dialogue in audio and video works, printed matter including books and posters, musical lyrics and even tattoos. Weiner defines the medium of his statements as ‘language + the material referred to’, emphasising the flexibility of presentation and limitations of language.
This work was commissioned by Tate to complement the acquisition of the installation SPHERES OF INFLUENCE 1990 which comprises five statement works (Tate T12006-T12010) and related posters and drawings. TAKEN TO AS DEEP AS THE SEA CAN BE also demonstrates the increased use of the graphic gesture in the artist’s more recent work. This work incorporates a linguistic element in the artist’s typically poetic and precise style. It also features a graphic flourish that demonstrates the artist’s sophisticated visual sense. Although Weiner has defined the medium of his statement works as ‘language + the material referred to’, the manifestation of his more recent statements has included an increasingly sophisticated use of graphic tropes that serve to illustrate and enhance the texts they accompany. The gently looping flourish in this work is exemplary of this aspect of his practice.
The notion of the sea’s fathomless depths has been a rich source of inspiration for artists and writers, particularly in Britain, an island nation with a history of maritime exploration and adventure. Conceptually and visually this work complements the other statement works in Tate’s Collection. The iteration of the phrase ‘(&) JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE’ in the SPHERES OF INFLUENCE works has a poetic reflection in the underwater depths referred to in this work. The graphic conceit of a heavy horizontal line separating and defining sections of text also unites the works.
Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Alexander Alberro, Alice Zimmerman and David Batchelor, Lawrence Weiner, London 1998.
‘Lawrence Weiner: SPHERES OF INFLUENCE’, exhibition leaflet, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1991.
Liz Kotz and Carlos Basualdo, Lawrence Weiner: Until It Is, exhibition catalogue, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio 2002.