Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lawrence Weiner

I was watching a recent documentary by Corinna Betz called Gerhard Richter Painting, which contains a scene at a museum opening party where Richter hurries through a thick crowd of admirers to embrace the bearded man below and kiss him on the lips. I immediately wondered who the bearded man could be, since his face was quite unknown to me. Fairly quickly I discovered that Richter had been kissing the well-known Conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942). Then I became curious to see some of Weiner's work and the ones I found and liked are the ones seen here. 
The other useful thing I learned from the Richter documentary was about artificial lighting and art, a subject that came up recently here.Why, I wondered, was naked fluorescent strip-lighting so prevalent at present in European galleries and museums? In a section of the film that had nothing to do with Lawrence Weiner, the 80-year-old Gerhard Richter was shown touring a German museum space with its director as they planned the hanging of an upcoming show. And Richter's main concern was to intensify the overhead lighting and make it "colder" so that "people would be uncomfortable and want to get out of here." On the spot, the two men decided to order the removal of the architectural grid that filtered the existing overhead lighting, add more of the same tube-lights that were already up there, and so create an overall effect as vacant and hell-like as possible. This, they felt, would be the right recipe for eluding an undesirable prettiness and moving closer to a desirable seriousness.

It was clear throughout the film that Richter felt acutely embarrassed about his fifty solid years of success and fame and wealth, which was why I interpreted the lighting business as a deliberate wish to be uningratiating and so perhaps salvage a little of that long-ago feeling of authenticity that artistic celebrity notoriously vitiates.