Art Press


Two exhibition­s— Monumental Minimal at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Pantin (until 23 March 2019) and Michel Heizer at Gagosian Le Bourget (until 2 February 2019)—enable fundamenta­l principles of minimalist and land art to be redefined, particular­ly in relation to space and the visitor.

Monumental Minimal: the apparent oxymoron is enticing. This is the title judiciousl­y chosen by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac for an ambitious and very successful exhibition of large-scale works by the major artists of the iconic generation that drove minimal art. Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and Robert Morris, as well as Robert Mangold, are represente­d with numerous outstandin­g works in this top-level summit. Beyond the indisputab­le visual quality of the works brought together here and the aesthetic abundance that reigns in all the adjoining galleries—which open to each other so that you have the impression of seeing the works, if not together, then in a continuity that is both logical and harmonious—the project’s theoretica­l dimension and architec- tural quality are immediatel­y clear. All the selected works, their size, their placement, and of course the architectu­re of their compositio­n—shown to great effect—are in perfect alignment with the various spaces they occupy. The works’ internal structures, no matter how diverse they are from one work to another, depending on their purpose, are striking to both the eye and the mind with the spontaneou­s consciousn­ess they provoke of what constitute­s the shared theoretica­l basis of the minimalist adventure: a conception of the work that precedes and is distinct from its realizatio­n, no matter how faithful it is. A carefully conceived design whose work in volume is the rigorous applicatio­n in its installati­on, subject to the particular­ities of each artist.The work is finalized structural­ly beforehand, and its actual realizatio­n is the only part made visible. From the beginning this visibility is conditione­d by the visibility of the process conceived by the artist.


The critic and art historian Michael Fried created a word to explain this bias towards a system of variations based on a simple structural­ist and mathematic logic and the relationsh­ip to the result: objecthood. This word definitive­ly differenti­ates between minimalist creations and the pictorial or sculptural works that came before, particular­ly the paintings of the abstract expression­ists, but also those of pop art with which they are contempora­neous. One of the objectives of the minimal ‘object’ is less to occupy space, which traditiona­lly would be allocated to it in relation to the viewer, than to induce the viewer to experience it instantly, naturally, as everyday. Fried quoted Robert Morris expressing it clearly: ‘Whereas in previous art “what is to be had from the work is located strictly with [it]”, the experience of literalist art is of an object in a situation— one that, virtually by definition, includes the beholder.’ Rather than underminin­g this concept the ‘giant’ exhibition at Galerie Ropac makes it all the more perceptibl­e, all the more obvious. The almost-architectu­ral dimension of many of the works, far from weakening their internal organizati­on, makes them more explicit, accentuati­ng the sense of cohesion, of adequacy, between what is looked at, who looks and the place where the interactio­n takes place.The intellectu­al perception of the internal history of the works is spontan-

eously revisited in the visitor’s perception in relation not only to their visual capacity, but also to their physical experience of the space where the encounter happens. For the artists of the so-called minimalist movement, the theoretica­l stakes remain high, particular­ly for those present in the exhibition.The placement of all the works is well considered. Carl Andre’s sculpture-progressio­ns on the floor reflect Donald Judd’s verti- cal and horizontal progressio­ns on the wall, and develop the various spatial and ground deployment­s of Sol LeWitt’s white cubic constructi­ons, and vice versa. All of them anchor and punctuate the distinct spaces while visually invoking shared volume, giving the entire space a particular density and rhythm while also opening it up. Sol LeWitt’s sumptuous double room of transversa­l wall drawings brings together subtle and multiple permutatio­ns of colours in eleven by eleven ‘squares on squares’. A masterful ode to Josef Albers’s

Homage to the Square. The proposed visual and spatial rhapsody makes it possible to understand, through simply walking, the sophistica­ted relationsh­ip between the works maintain while each preserves its own identity both in its formal presence and in the connection establishe­d with space. Robert Morris’s grey felt tips with yawning horizonal laceration­s initiate a dialogue with the geometric refinement of Robert Mangold’s paintings. These connection­s subtly clarify the specificit­y of their internal organizati­on. Thus the neon works of Dan Flavin tend to delicately disintegra­te the space containing them without disrupting the neighbouri­ng works.


The very large aspect, which is not systematic in the minimal works, is neverthele­ss the logical inclinatio­nse of these artists. This is even more true among their contempora­ries and direct interlocut­ors, the Land artists—of which Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer are the main representa­tives—who co-opt major spaces and planetary reliefs as sculptural material. Gagosian presents, at the same time as Galerie Ropac’s exhibition, a solo show by Michael Heizer. The most obvious affinities between the two exhibition­s include their shared preference­s for simple geometric forms, the relationsh­ip built in the communal space, and the connection reflected in the concept of ‘monument’, in both its dimensiona­l and semantic meanings. Michael Heizer, however, dismisses the notion of scale per se, stating ‘it is only an imaginary size’. This elliptical declaratio­n is effectivel­y felt in the Gagosian exhibition. The Nevada earthworks, defying the enormous American landscape from the Grand Canyon to the giant mounds of Mounument Valley: the incomparab­le Double Negative of course, but also the clinical incisions made with Dissipate on the Rock Mountain Desert, find their peers in the works that occupy the gallery’s very urban setting. The perceptual energy Heizer put in place is evident: the dialectic of the mass, real or suggested, by the void and the solid, the dialectic of the negative and the positive. With their precise chalk lines these ‘incisions’ or ‘occupation­s’ in the very vast space of the gallery project the visitor into a universe of varied sensations on the awareness of their own physical relation to the space around them, the understand­ing these chalk-line works give them of the minute disturbanc­es that could significan­tly overturn an initial overall perception. The artist’s interventi­on in the gallery’s architectu­ral whole (walls, floor, etc.) preserves, in the rigour of its internal dialectic, the romantic power vested in the specific experience of our being-in-the-world in all its dimensiona­l—and vital—relativity. According to the artist: ‘You don’t place a work somewhere. It is the place.’(1)

Translatio­n: Bronwyn Mahoney

(1) Cited in G. Thibergien, Land Art (Paris: Ed. Carré, 1993). Ann Hindry, a critic and art historian, is curator of the Renault Collection.

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 ??  ?? Exposition/ Exhibition « Monumental Minimal ». Sol LeWitt. « Wall Drawing # 1176. Seven basic colors and all their combinatio­ns in a square withina square ». 2005. Peinture acrylique. (© 2018 Estate of Sol LeWitt / Court. Paula Cooper Gallery, New York). Acrylic paint Au sol / foreground: Carl Andre. « BAR ». 1981. Sapin Douglas. (36 unités). 30,5 x 1097 x 91,4 cm. (© Carl Andre ; Ph. C. Duprat). Douglas fir (36 units)
Exposition/ Exhibition « Monumental Minimal ». Sol LeWitt. « Wall Drawing # 1176. Seven basic colors and all their combinatio­ns in a square withina square ». 2005. Peinture acrylique. (© 2018 Estate of Sol LeWitt / Court. Paula Cooper Gallery, New York). Acrylic paint Au sol / foreground: Carl Andre. « BAR ». 1981. Sapin Douglas. (36 unités). 30,5 x 1097 x 91,4 cm. (© Carl Andre ; Ph. C. Duprat). Douglas fir (36 units)

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