Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On Robert Barry

Dan Flavin's Lights, Donald Judd's Boxes, James Turrell's Skypieces and Visual Fields....these are conceptual, but still objects. They may be reproducible by rather simple means (i.e. you could do it yourself), but they are still objects. When you purchase them, you are purchasing both the object and the idea behind that object. Out there, but still tangible. Well, check this out.

I've been reading over a book by Alexander Albero, titled Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity. Many interesting topics are discussed (including the role of dealers in the product of art, and the conceptualists reaction to this). Many artists are also discussed - including Robert Barry.

Barry was perhaps the most conceptual of the conceptual artists, moving quickly from sculpture to ideas to art with no easily perceptible presence.

The first works that I'll discuss are from the exhibit "January 5-31, 1969" at Siegelaub in NYC. The titles are 88 mc Carrier Wave (FM) and 1600 kc Carrier Wave (AM). Both works utilized hidden transmitters that only sent carrier waves with no modulation. The carriers waves were used as the object, rather than a transmitter of information, as is customary. Normally, the carrier wave is inaudible and invisible to the process of transmitting audio/radio. The waves are still inaudible, but have been stripped of the carrier function that they normally hold.

As Barry notes:

"Ultrasonic sound waves have different qualities from ordinary sound waves. They can be directed like a beam and they bounce back from a wall. Actually, you can make invisible patterns and designs from them. They can be diagrammed and measured." (Meyer, Ursula. Conceptual Art. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972, pg. 37))

But measurement of this was up to the audience, and who brings a transistor radio with them to an art gallery? All that existed to mark the work was a simple label on the wall.

This was followed in 1969 (April) in Los Angeles with a series of pieces that involved the release of inter gasses (so they won't combine with other gasses - i.e. they will maintain their chemical composition) released into the air in the Mojave Desert. The art objects included photos of the release site (the gasses were utterly invisible) and a poster/advertisement that directed the audience to a phone number, where a recording describing the work was played. The only visible evidence of the art itself was the poster!

Here is a link to some of Barry's newer work:



Blogger Mike Boyd said...

Very interesting stuff - it seems akin to, but different than, performance and installation artists whose work is transient and non-"permanent"; here the concept of an accessible (different connotation here) art that can be percevied at any time is problematized differently by calling into question the necessity of materials that are perceptible via the human senses (also reminds me of the Fluxus piece "Do or do not do something universally"). I may have bumped into his art more than I realize...

12/21/2005 7:15 PM  

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