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Lawrence Weiner and Liz Kotz in Conversation

Lawrence Weiner, exhibition view of "As Far as the Eye Can See"
Lawrence Weiner, exhibition view of "As Far as the Eye Can See"
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum

Liz Kotz and Lawrence Weiner on AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
7pm 17 January 2008
Whitney Museum of American Art - 945 Madison Ave, New York NY

In his popular 2002 text Dispersion, Seth Price suggests that "conceptual" has become a term with a sort of viral currency in contemporary art. Intellectually invested work across mediums is eagerly prefixed with this designation by artists to suggest a transcendent quality from the generally pejorative connotations of craft. Indeed such anxiety over art making in a post-industrial society, especially in terms of what is still made by hand (and why), might be attributed to any of several factors. Perhaps it is a symptom of the further entrenchment of contemporary art as a socially privileged cultural distribution channel; an art in which barriers of admittance are constantly renegotiated in the twilight of popular entertainment and media spectacles. Or, perhaps, what Price calls "today's normative Conceptualism" is the result of the regimentation of art education and an apprehensive desire on the part of practioners to identify with historically bracketed moments in the Western art of the past fifty years. The original concerns of American conceptual art were of course much narrower in scope than to what the word's current popularity attests. Linguistics, analytic philosophy, dematerialization, and a systemic approach to art making may lie at the core practice of many of the original group of American conceptual artists, of which Lawrence Weiner, the current subject of a 40 year retrospective at the Whitney, is a key member — and who remains a very active presence in New York. Weiner's other recent exhibition sites have gone from the way-off-center Project Utopia space in Bushwick, Brooklyn (reviewed here some time ago) to the just closed project space at Marian Goodman where Weiner had installed a single text spanning 3 of the gallery's walls.

This Thursday Weiner talks to scholar Liz Kotz about his Whitney retrospective, which is installed through 10 February. Kotz is the author of Words to Be Looked At: Language in 1960s Art, recently published by the MIT Press, a cross-disciplinary survey of the vanguard practices in visual art, poetry, and music of 60s New York and has rightly garnered the author some very favorable reviews.