(Almost) nothing


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A slide show illustrating types of art, painting, sculpture. This one explores the evolution of the absence of content as the focus of the art or, at least, of the artists intentions. "nothing" has been a constant in art for 100 years. Just as you suspected.

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(Almost) nothing

  1. 1. (almost)* NOTHING "Nothing seems to me the most potent thing in the world." Robert Barry "outside the spoken word, no thought can exist without a sustaining support. Even a piece of typing needs paper" Mel Bochner, 1970*
  2. 2. Marcel Duchamp 50 cc of Paris Air (50 cc Aire de Paris), 1919 broken, replaced by Duchamp in 1949 glass ampoule, Paris air 6” high This was a gift from Duchamp to his friend and patron Walter Arensburg upon Duchampʼs return from Paris to New York.
  3. 3. Margaret Anderson (ed.) The Little Review, Vol. III, No. 6 (September 1916) [Thirteen text pages, all empty] “I loathe compromise, and yet I have been compromising in every issue by putting in things that were “almost good” or “interesting enough” or “important.” There will be no more of it. If there is only one beautiful thing for the September number it shall go in and the other pages will be left blank. Come on all of you!”
  4. 4. Vasilisk Gnedov Peoma Kontsa (Untitled Poem), 1915 Man Ray “ _______ __ _____” In Francis Picabia, 391, 1924
  5. 5. Robert Rauschenberg White Painting, 1951 7 panels, white paint on canvass Rauschenberg wanted to distill painting to its essence—paint on canvas. From there, he felt, he could expand it in any direction. Robert Rauschenberg sitting in front of White Painting
  6. 6. John Cage (1912-1992) 4ʼ33”, 1952 music score The three movements are performed without a single note being played. The composition is meant to be the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, rather than silence.
  7. 7. Robert Rauschenberg Erased De Kooning, 1953 Willem De Kooning drawing, eraser Rauschenberg was not finished with negation with White Painting. In 1953 he erased—with the artistʼs permission and collusion—a Willem De Kooning drawing. Robert Rauschenberg Erased De Kooning, 1953 detail
  8. 8. Yves Klein, Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void), 1960 photocollages, with Harry Strunk Klein's work revolved around a Zen-influenced concept he came to describe as "le Vide" (the Void). Klein's Void is a nirvana-like state that is void of worldly influences. "Saut dans le vide" was published as part of a broadside by Klein (the "artist of space") denouncing NASA's own lunar expeditions as hubris and folly. Voids, A Retrospective, 2009 Centre Pompidou, Paris catalog cover Note the missing figure
  9. 9. Yve Klein IKB (International Klein Blue) 191, 1962 blue pigment, canvas "Recently my work with color has led me, in spite of myself, to search little by little, with some assistance (from the observer, from the translator), for the realization of matter, and I have decided to end the battle. My paintings are now invisible and I would like to show them in a clear and positive manner, in my next Parisian exhibition at Iris Clert's." Yves Klein In April 1958, Klein showed nothing whatsoever. Called La spécialisation de la sensibilité à lʼétat matière première en sensibilité picturale stabilisée, Le Vide (The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void): he removed everything in the gallery space except a large cabinet, painted every surface white, and then staged an elaborate entrance procedure for the opening. The gallery's window was painted blue, and a blue curtain was hung in the entrance lobby, accompanied by republican guards and blue cocktails. Thanks to an enormous publicity drive, 3000 people were forced to queue up, waiting to be let in to an empty room.
  10. 10. Yves Klein, The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void, 1958
  11. 11. Yves Klein, Void Room Reserved for the Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, 1962 Klein suffered a heart attack while watching the film Mondo Cane (in which he is featured) at the Cannes Film Festival on 11 May 1962. He died in June, 1962.
  12. 12. Andy Warhol, Retrospective, 1965 Philadelphia Museum of Art .. all the art was removed for the opening; so many guests were expected that this became an exhibition not of art, but of an exhibition. The only thing on show was Andy Warhol being famous. Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art
  13. 13. Iain Baxter& 2 Tons of Ice Sculpture, 1964 U of British Columbia, Canada the concepts of disappearance, impermanence, change and destruction
  14. 14. Allan Kaprow Fluids, 1967 Pasadena Art Museum During three days, about twenty rectangular enclosures of ice blocks (measuring about 30 feet long, 10 wide and 8 high) are built throughout the city.Their walls are unbroken.They are left to melt.
  15. 15. Robert Filliou 3 No-Plays, 1964 No-Play #1 This is a play that nobody must come and see. That is, the not- coming of anyone makes the play. Together with the very extensive advertising of the spectacle through newspapers, radio, T.V., private invitations, etc. ... No one must be told not to come. No one should be told that he really shouldn't come. No one must be prevented from coming in any way whatsoever!!! But nobody must come, or there is no play. That is, if the spectators come, there is no play. And if no spectators come, there is no play either ... I mean, one way or the other there is a play, but it is a No-Play. No-Play #2 In this No-Play, time/space is of the essence. It consists of a performance during which no spectator becomes older. If the spectators become old3r from the time they come to the performance to the time they leave, then there is no play. That is to say, there is a play, but it is a No-Play. Robert Filliou LE FILLIOU IDÉAL   not deciding not choosing not wanting not owning aware of self wide awake SITTING QUIETLY, DOING NOTHING "Action poem", Paris, 1964. Performed in 1965 at the Café au Go-Go in New York as Part Two of the action poem Yes.
  16. 16. Christo Javacheff Store Front, 1968 Documenta 4, Kassel, Germany
  17. 17. Ian Wilson Circle on the Floor, 1968 Von Abbemuseum, Netherlands Soon after making this piece Wilson decided to completely dematerialize his art and present it only as spoken words. He describes this work as ʻoral communicationʼ, and later as ʻdiscussionʼ. His work is never recorded either as film or audio in order to preserve the transient nature of the spoken word.
  18. 18. “... all those bent pieces of metal and acres of canvas clogging up the basements of museums. A form of ecological pollution.” Victor Burgin “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more. I prefer, simply, to state the existence of things in terms of time and/or place.” Douglas Huebler “We know that the quality exists in the thinking of the artist, not the object he employs — if he employs an object at all.” Sol Lewitt “ I present oral communication as an object, all art is information and communication. Iʼve chosen to speak rather than sculpt... Iʼm diametrically opposed to the precious object.” Ian Wilson, 1969
  19. 19. Michael Asher Vertical Column of Accelerated Air, 1966/1967
  20. 20. Michael Asher ʻPainting and Sculpture from The Museum of Modern Art: Catalog of Deaccessions 1929 through 1998ʼ, 1999 MoMA, NY Asherʼs book ʻThe Museum of Modern Art, New Yorkʼ (1999) was his contribution to the group exhibition ʻThe Museum as Muse: Artists Reflectʼ. The catalogue lists 403 art works – names, titles, dimensions and accession numbers – that were removed from the collection of the museum by sale or exchange. Michael Asher is one of the premier conceptual artists in the United States. Since the late 1960s, he has created projects that reveal how museums and galleries display art and how institutional practices shape how we understand the art we see in those settings. LA County Museum of Art (www.lacma.org/) Michael Asher Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, 2010 Asherʼs proposal for the is to have the exhibition open to the public twenty-four hours a day for one week (Monday, May 24 through Sunday, May 30). Michael Asher, 1973 Art Institute of Chicago Asher relocated the ... sculpture of Houdon's George Washington (1788)—which had stood outside the main entrance—to a room dedicated to European arts of the 18th century, the historical context appropriate to George Washington. Thus displaced from the front entrance the sculpture's meaning was redefined.
  21. 21. LA County Museum of Art record of holdings & photo documentation Michael Asher Asher is a pioneer of "Institutional critique”, an artistic practice that reflects critically on its own place within galleries and museums, and on the concept and social function of art itself. Such concerns have always been a part of modern art but took on new urgency at the end of the 1960s, when—driven by the social upheaval of the time and enabled by the tools and techniques of conceptual art—institutional critique emerged as a genre. Amazon Product Description
  22. 22. Robert Barry Closed Gallery Piece, 1969 “During the exhibition the gallery will be closed.” Three galleries in Amsterdam, Turin and Los Angeles took part: anyone who didnʼt believe the invitation cards found the entrance locked. ... In one case it is stated that the gallery is closed ʻforʼ the exhibition, as if providing a service; in another, that it is closed ʻduringʼ the exhibition, as if there might be a show going on somewhere else, in the ether, or behind the locked doors.
  23. 23. Robert Irwin Experimental Situation Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, 1970 “The gallery space will be empty for a period of 1 month (October), for Robert Irwin to visit the space daily to conceive the different possibilities of artworks for the space.”
  24. 24. Robert Irwin Varese Scrim, 1973
  25. 25. Robert Irwin, Slant/Light/Volume, 1971 synthetic fabric, wood, fluorescent lights, floodlights 96 x 564 in. Collection Walker Art Center Gift of the artist, 1971
  26. 26. Robert Irwin Window Dia: Beacon Hudson River Valley. Robert Irwin Window San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla, Ca no photo the piece consists of a 12” square hole cut through huge plate glass window in the director’s office
  27. 27. George Brecht (objects as motionless events) "an art verging on the non-existent, dissolving into other dimensions"
  28. 28. James Turrell projections, 2010 first produced 1968
  29. 29. James Turrell Afrum-Proto, 1996 Quartz halogen corner projection Art Tower Mito, Japan James Turrell Atlan, 1995 Space division construction, Danäe series Ultraviolet light and tungsten light Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan
  30. 30. James Turrell Hi Test, 1997 Mixed media, site-specific permanent installation Mondrian Hotel, West Hollywood, California “(T)here isn't something out there that we perceive; we are actually creating this vision, and we are responsible, for it is something we're rather unaware of.” James Turrell
  31. 31. James Turrell Skyspace at Live Oak Friends Meeting House, 2000 Houston, Texas Retracted skyspace shows light changing as sun sets
  32. 32. James Turrell Light Reign Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
  33. 33. David Bainbridge and Howard Hurrell Loop, 1967
  34. 34. Dennis Oppenheim Whirlpool (Eye of the Storm), 1973 At about the same time as Whirlpool James Turrell and Robert Irwin proposed, for an art and technology exhibition in Sweden, blasting a rocket thru the stratosphere in order to punch a visual hole in the sky, as rocket launches frequently do. They were offered a rocket but failed to obtain a permit. It was felt that the (then) Soviet Union would feel threatened.
  35. 35. Robert Barry Inert Gas Series, 1969 3 March 1969 Barry released a liter of krypton into the atmosphere, in Beverly Hills. He did the same over the following days, with xenon in the mountains, argon on the beach and helium in the desert. Robert Barry Inert Gas Series, 1969 Totally blank white card plate with this one-line text printed along the lower edge: "Robert Barry/Inert Gas Series/Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon. From a Measured Volume to Indefinite Expansion/April 1969/Seth Siegelaub, 6000 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California, 90028/213 HO 4-8363."Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon. From a Measured Volume to Indefinite Expansion. 1969. This print is the "exhibition poster" of the Barry's show "Inert Gas Series" at Seth Siegelaub's Gallery, which never actually existed, the gallery being only a phone number.
  36. 36. Robert Barry Invitation Piece, 1972-3 The invitation sent out by Paul Maenz Gallery, Cologne, invited you to an exhibition by Robert Barry at Art & Public in Amsterdam, who in turn referred you to London, from where you were invited to New York and so on, until finally Turin sent you back to Cologne. Nothing happened or was shown apart from this set of invitations. Robert Barry Telepathic Piece, 1969 "During the Exhibition I will try to communicate telepathically a work of art, the nature of which is a series of thoughts that are not applicable to language or image." Robert Barry Prospect '69 "The piece consists of the ideas that people will have from reading this interview... The piece in its entirety is unknowable because it exists in the mind of so many people. Each person can really know that part which is in his own mind." Robert Barry Carrier Wave (FM), 1968 Barry used the carrier waves of a radio station for a prescribed length of time "not as a means of transmitting information, but rather as an object."
  37. 37. Robert Barry All the things I know but of which I a not at the moment thinking, 1:36 PM, June 15, 1969
  38. 38. John Baldessari, 1966-1968
  39. 39. Fred Forest The Golden Number and a 14,000-Hertz Electromagnetic Field, 1987 Documenta8, Kassel, Germany The artist explores the esthetics of “invisible system artworks,” virtual space, and the relationship between art and information in a “latent” installation that only begins to take on meaning elsewhere and after the fact, when its existence is revealed in an article appearing in a major national newspaper published in Cologne.
  40. 40. “[Teaching] is my most important function. To be a teacher is my greatest work of art.” Joseph Beuys “Teaching for Beuys was always about discussing and arguing, not about explaining craft skills. Eduction should never be an elitist activity: he was sacked from the Dusseldorf academy in 1972 because he let anyone join his course who applied for it. Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art
  41. 41. Karen Sander Water, 1990 water on white wall
  42. 42. Thomas Friedman, Paper Stared at for 2000 Hours Thomas Friedman (1965- ) Untitled, 2000 hole punched book pages Thomas Friedman (1965- ) Untitled, 1994 self-portrait carved out of a single aspirin Thomas Friedman (1965- ) Untitled, 1995 30,000 toothpicks 26 x 30 x 23 inches
  43. 43. Jay Chung Nothing is More Practical than Idealism, 2001 film Chung produced, wrote and directed a short 35 mm film with a crew of 20, but with no film in the camera
  44. 44. Stefan Brueggemann No Programme, 2001 Stefan Brueggemann Nothing Boxes, 2003 Stefan Brueggemann Nothing, 2003
  45. 45. Jaime Pitarch 106 Layers, 2006 106 layers of latex paint on wall
  46. 46. Mel Bochner Nothing, 2004 Monty Pythonʼs Flying Circus Dead Parrot Sketch Series 1, Show 9 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! (I couldnʼt resist. LM)
  47. 47. Tino Sehgal This Progress, 2006-2010 “This Progress,” ... is even in some sense invisible. Mr. Sehgalʼs art is made up almost entirely of ... balletic tableaus and social encounters. His work has features of theater and dance ... but is made for museums, galleries and art fairs, places that depend ... on a proliferation of valuable things. Things are a problem for Mr. Sehgal, who ... studied political economy before he studied dance. He thinks the world has too many of them, that production is ceaseless and technology destructive.” Holland Cotter, NY Times, 1/31/10
  48. 48. Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter . . . Keats
  49. 49. Thomas Marquet The White Cube, 2008
  50. 50. Concept Art Concept art is first of all an art of which the material is concepts, as the material of e.g. music is sound. Since concepts are closely bound up with language, concept art is a kind of art of which the material is language. Henry Flynt: "Essay: Concept Art." (1961) In: La Monte Young (ed.): An Anthology, 1963 All I make are models. The actual works of art are ideas. Rather than 'ideals' the models are a visual approximation of a particular art object I have in mind. Joseph Kosuth: Statement, 1967 It may be preferable, for obvious reasons, to limit artworks to the mind, to allow them to exist in thought only. Dematerialized, planted in consciousness, they would exist solely in the imagination and might survive untarnished. Lothar Baumgarten: "Status quo", 1987. Artforum 7 (1988), p. 108 Every competent human brain strives for emancipation from its organic duties. Every competent human brain strives for freedom to shape a purely mental life of its own. Susanne Langer: Mind. An Essay on Human Feeling. 3 Vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967/1972/1982
  51. 51. Books: Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art, Phaidon, London, 1998 Voids, A Retrospective Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2009 "void" has permeated Western art and culture; artists have dismantled conventions of reality and perception with acts of emptying, removing, destroying, or emphasizing nothingness. MIchael Gibbs: All or nothing. An anthology of blank books. Cromford, Derbyshire: RGAP, 2005. An important resource. 3 volumes, one printed in white ink on white paper. Ralph Rugoff, A Brief History of Invisible Art, CCA Wattis Institute, SF, 2006 Websites: radicalart (radicalart.info/nothing/text/index.html) Left Matrix (www.leftmatrix.com/art.html) art / politics, published by Bob Schweitzer. The emphasis in this collection is placed on the 60s and 70s Conceptual Art / Land Art / and Performance Art artists, catalogues, periodicals, ephemera and reference texts Most boring sites (a web project) (www.o-o.lt/action/boring/) Websites of nothing: www.this-page-intentionally-left-blank.org/ www.mountainsanatorium.net/blank.htm