Joan Witek on Lawrence Weiner

In 1976, Donald Judd made a small drawing in pencil on yellow paper, a color we don’t often associate with serious-minded “minimal” work. Lawrence Weiner’s drawing from the same collection, featured here, was made years later but uses this same “surprise” of a background color. Whereas the Judd is on colored paper, Weiner has delicately painted his background. The effect is to bring the image closer to the viewer, pulling it away from its white border and nearer to us –making it more real.

A description of the 1300-foot-long Great Serpent Mound (for which this piece is named) says that it was formed from yellow clay taken from three pits in the area. Is this Weiner’s reason for the color he chose?

As Weiner’s letter of 1997 describes, “The line represents the horizon, the rectangle a ‘landscape,’ and the wedge an ‘intrusion’ (removal).” One can almost imagine it as a biological specimen sliced thin for viewing under a microscope. It seems to be the anatomy of the Mound, horizontally, and not from the vertical point of Weiner’s viewing from a small plane.

Whatever the facts or our impressions, this rendering is at once mysterious and logical. It makes the viewer try to figure out what they seem to see of an actual place.

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