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Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

An exploration on how Conceptual Art deals with language and space with specific reference to the works and writings of Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner.

January 2010


Several key theorists have written about, investigated and explored notions of language and space to delve into the connecting spheres of philosophy and reality, theory and practice and between the mental and the social. In The Production of Space, Lefebvre explains these notions further;

“Every language is located in a space. Every discourse says something about a space; and every discourse is emitted from a space. There are thus relationships between language and space which are to a greater or lesser extent misconstrued or disregarded.” (Lefebvre:1991:135)

This paper will aim to explore language and space through a Fine Arts context, looking at the works of conceptual artists Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007) and Mel Bochner (1940 - ). LeWitt and Bochner are significant in my investigation into language and space as both artists explore these specifically in their practice.

Both language and space came to attention in the rise of conceptual art in the 1960’s. It was apparent at this time that artists deployed the ambiguous interplay of language to disseminate their ideas (Lewallen 2000). What’s more, perceptual and conceptual understanding of experience was commonplace. I must question why artists felt they needed to deliberately withdraw from the “making of things” in order to revolutionise the traditional ideas of art. An analysis of the 1960’s recites a time of political turmoil in which artist’s reacted with an array of responses, “they rethought the role of the artist in society, re-examined the notion of an art of personal identity and devised visual languages of frustration and dissent” (Crow:1996:193). Such questions of personal identity, placing of the artist in society and using language in visual art to disseminate ideas raise questions in relation to my own practice.

Having a studio practice which is based around my interests in material, language, space and time, soon lead to my initial encounters of LeWitt and Bochner’s work. What initially attracted me to LeWitt’s work was his emphasis of the cubic form, not just the finalised form itself but recognising the system of procedures that created these forms. It is apparent there are a predetermined set of processes which are primary, leading to the geometric structural forms which are the perfunctory affair. This questions the artist’s intent to transform two dimensional primary ideas, which could solely exist as artworks, into that of three dimensional structures. This

Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

process of furthering a two dimensional concept into a three dimensional structure can be seen in Standing Open Structure, Black 1964 (Fig.1), what was initially apparent was how its measurements of 224 x 65 x 65cm are comparable to the size of the human body. Thus, communicating the awareness and perceptual experience of the viewer.

My first encounter of Bochner’s work was the piece Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art 1966 (Fig.2), this work transformed the experience of the viewer into that of a reader (Burton:2007:30). The books that were featured offered a new object and concept for the viewer to digest. These concepts clearly derived from his uses of language and space in order to examine every possible way that the work can be thought about, thus raising questions about what art can be.

For the purposes of my studio practice and line of enquiry we will explore, how and why language is used in their works; investigating the artists linguistically constructed declaration of intent. Moreover, examining what kind of language is used exploring the subtle contextual changes of LeWitt and Bochner’s work from the 1960’s visual art to (2007 –present). In addition to this, I will examine how the experiences of space within these works are crucially significant to the viewer’s perception.

Taking into consideration the constraints of this papers word count, in order for us to examine these factors a definition of “language” and “space” within the Fine Arts context will be addressed. What will be referred to as language throughout my investigation will be artworks in the form of printed texts, signs, words on a canvas, words on a wall or, written plans, sets of rules and instructions. My definition of space within these artworks will include perceptual and physical space. I will aim to explore how LeWitt and Bochner take into consideration the theoretical, physical and perceptual spheres and how they are applied through their work.

These ideas and concepts will be explored through an analysis of theoretical texts. These texts will not only provide me with an understanding of LeWitt and Bochner’s forty year retrospective, but will further my knowledge understanding the discourse of language and space. Primary communication with Bochner unfortunately resulted with a reply indicating that he does not answer questions related to his artwork. Evidence of this primary communication is featured in my appendices. As there are minimal literatures on his recent works, my own conclusions will be drawn from the ideas and questions raised.

Chapter 1

The work of Sol LeWitt is to be discussed here to shed light on the concepts and questions arisen through the analysis of two key works, Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) 1966 (Fig.3) and New Structures 1995 (Fig.4). It is crucial to examine a 1960’s work by the artist and a more recent work in order to explore language and space in relation to cultural context. As the works encompass a twenty-nine year gap, a greater indication of the changing ideas and intentions of the artist from the 1960’s to his death in 2007 will become clear. It must be stated, the works were not solely chosen on this premise; my initial interpretation was that the physicality of these works impact over their narrative. Therefore, deciphering between what can be seen and what is actually exhibited makes one think about the discrepancy between language and, objects and actions.

Looking further into Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) 1966 (Fig 3) uncovers the structure’s three dimensional intersections. The forms joints, angles, corners and lines imply a complexity which demonstrates an accurate and logical concept. This can be explained further in his 1967 essay Paragraphs on Conceptual Art whereby LeWitt states “the idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product” (Harrison 2003:846-49). It is a clear interpretation that the ideas and concepts of the work were prioritised over the works physical realisation. Therefore, the language and vocabulary which elucidates a conceptual narrative to the piece may not have been perceived in his end game but remains the principle element to the work. The point being, these visual objects are viewed in the exhibition however, they may not be fully digested unless the viewer understands the system that generated the piece.

As LeWitt’s use of language is that which constitutes a set of rules and permutations that are written and planned, my understanding therefore is that the artist’s view of the function of language is to instruct and inform his draftsman in making the art. The work of art is not plain text but rather the idea itself which the language portrays. LeWitt’s intentions to write clear and concise instructions can be clarified through Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics where the prestige of writing is described:

“The written form of a word strikes us as a permanent, solid object, and hence more fitting than its sound to act as a linguistic unit persisting through time. Although the connection between word and

Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

written form is superficial, it is none the less much easier to grasp than the natural and only authentic connexion, which links word and sound” (Saussure 1972:26).

In agreement with Saussure it is evident that the written form of a language unavoidably appears everlasting, though arguably mutable and changing. In relation to Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) interpreting LeWitt’s written instructions and plans explain a testimony to the importance of how this work can be created. It can be suggested that not only are the written rules and instructions implemented to avoid any ambiguous decisions by the artist or draftsmen deterring away from the initial system, but to imply an accurate document for the creators to execute precisely what is intended. If LeWitt’s use of language was spoken, such utterances and expressions may have been misinterpreted, misconstrued, indirect or even absent (Clark 1996:128). Real life conversation is peppered with repair, repetition, recycling and disfluency. The writing medium is less so, because it is not naturalistic it is therefore inherently less spontaneous and not evanescent. This is why writing symbols do not account for disfluency, repair or false starts. The point here is that a piece of instructional writing, in LeWitt’s case, is able to be crafted by the author and as well as being physically traceable through space, written language is also traceable through time.

As LeWitt had co-creators to help him build these structures by following written information raises questions of reproduction. To explain further, by replicating the form (structure) a reproduction of the initial idea will be reproduced strengthening the overall concept of the work. This emphasises how written plans, information and predetermined rules are an essential factor to the sculptural execution. From this it can be presumed that Serial Project No.1 (ABCD (Fig.3), given that the system is followed, can be repeated.

The significance of this work in relation to its cultural context cannot be denied. Perhaps the interplay with language in the Serial Project series of LeWitt’s in the 1960’s was a tactic to break away from the dead end of Minimalism. LeWitt himself states “As far as Minimalism goes, I don’t think it existed as an idea at all. It was only a stylistic reaction to the rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism. It was self-defeating, because simplicity of form could only go so far” (Ostrow:2003).

As well as the end of Minimalism in the 1960’s, other political upheavals such as racial equality, aversion of war and the Feminist movement in the 1970’s also had an effect on the art world. This cultural shift allowed art to

progress towards a narrative unlocking a freedom from the formal and aesthetic. Not only that, it was clear that artists wanted to step away from art as commodity. In relation to Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) the finalised structure could be potentially bought, however the idea which is principle cannot. LeWitt proclaimed that the ideas solely belong to those who understand them, which eradicate any form of commodity. Looking in more depth behind the construction of Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) my understanding of this confirms, in its dematerialised form, the art object is written language.

To highlight this further LeWitt, a year after Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) was exhibited, distributed the written floor plans of the work as a poster and invitation for his Dwan Gallery Los Angeles show (Fig.5). This diagram of explanatory notes displays specific measurements, explanations, spatial differences and equations as a declaration to the importance the artist placed on the concept. This may have been to clarify to the viewer that LeWitt work was not meant to be perceived as a visually pleasing object, but instead functions as the perfunctory affair to his initial idea. Thus, LeWitt was challenging whether both the written plans (idea) and the finalised structure (produced form) could be perceived as two artworks in their own right. In relation to what has been discussed, both elements of Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3&5) function in very different means. It can be presumed that LeWitt’s decision to involve his written plans into the gallery exhibit in this case, reinstates what art historian James Meyer suggests “it was not just an explanatory guide to the show, but to emphasise the importance of the idea, underlying the completed artwork” (Meyer 2000:108). It can be argued that the function of the written posters and invitation cards were to place the viewer closer to the artist’s thoughts and intentions in order to understand the piece. However, my understandings are that the written notes were not solely a further explanation; but were incorporated to allow the viewer to appreciate both as two separate works in two and three dimensional formats.

LeWitt’s later piece, New Structures 1995 (Fig.4), was executed using the same method of instructional language, as we have already spoken about such language, the trajectory of space will now be addressed.

New Structures 1995 (Fig.4) filled the ACE Gallery, New York with breeze block structures of cubic forms which ascended from the floor to the ceiling. In position of where these square bases interconnect, a number of block towers rise. It is clear when looking at the piece that the basic shapes and forms in his 1960’s structural work is implemented in New Structures (Fig.4) but with a change in scale. What is striking in this piece of work is how its structural size and overall impact contradicts that of his earlier dematerialised forms such as

Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3). This transformation raises numerous questions surrounding the perceptions of the piece and the context of when it was created.

In my analysis, the shift from such fragile geometric forms to monumental block structures can be speculated after looking at his work 123456, 1978 (Fig.6). His structures began to rise as well as lay flat. We can presume he began to experiment with the perceptual experience of the viewer, persuading them to move around the piece, looking into and through the structure. Also the relationship between structure and architecture is made obvious fitting to the context in time where sky-scrapers and architecture became eccentric, with architectural designs becoming idiosyncratic. One can only assume by looking at this piece that LeWitt was possibly intending to transform his work into monumental forms.

The Production of Space offers further exploration of monumental structures in which Lefebvre states “The purposes of such a display, of this need to impress, is to convey an impression of authority to each spectator” (Lefebvre:1991:98) Even though this literature was written before the work was produced, it clarifies a valid point in relation to LeWitt’s work. Having a work which towers over each spectator will not only dominate the physical space of the room but alter the perceptual space of the viewer. What’s more, this piece eliminates the features of each shape given that the concrete obstructs the spectators view. The viewers therefore, must move around the gallery space to fully determine the entirety of the form.

Notes on Sculpture published in Artforum, October 1966 By Robert Morris informs us further of the perceptions of sculpture; “In the perception of relative size the human body enters into the total continuum of sizes and establishes itself as a constant on that scale. One knows immediately what is smaller and what is larger than himself. It is obvious, yet important, to take note of the fact that things smaller than ourselves are seen differently than things larger” (Harrison:2003:828-835).

In relation to Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) and New Structures (Fig.4) the space between the subject and object is implied in such a comparison in both works. A larger structure such as New Structures (Fig.4) fills more of the gallery space in comparison to Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3). Therefore, in order for the spectator to embrace the entirety of the form, it is essential for the viewer to remain distant, before moving closer to comprehend the structures sections. It could be said that the scale and overpowering presence may

cause the viewer to obtain a less intimate experience of New Structures (Fig.4). However, we cannot deny that this scale forces the spectator to be aware of themselves in relation to the work. Therefore a connection between viewer and structure cannot be avoided whether intimate or not.

The notion of space is not only fundamental in the making of the art, but also questions the overall experience in the perception of the work. Referring back to Morris’ statement, it is undeniable that things smaller than ourselves are seen differently to things larger, however in relation to LeWitt’s works it can be pointed out that their forms also differ immensely in their material aesthetic. In my point of view materiality must be a fundamental aspect to take into consideration because it is not just scale which conveys the artist’s intentions. The point being, if the material used in New Structures (Fig.4) was not concrete and had the aesthetic quality of Serial Project No.1 (ABCD) (Fig.3) the work would have a less impacting presence large scale or not.

His structural works over the past thirty years have not only explored negative and positive space to uncover the relations between open and closed cubes, but has communicated the fragility and solidity of the exact same form. By changing the materiality and scale of this form creates an impression nonetheless on the viewer mentally and physically. It is clear that both works were constructed using written instructional language however; materiality and the notions of space have altered how these three dimensional structures are perceived.

Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

Chapter 2

The work of Mel Bochner will now be discussed on the concepts and questions arisen through the analysis of two key works, Measurement: Room 1969 (Fig. 7) and his Thesaurus Paintings 2003-2006 (Fig.8,9&10). Once more, a work from the 1960’s will be addressed as well as a later work with the intention to unpick the notions of language and space in relation to cultural context. As Bochner is still a working practitioner, it is possible to discuss a more recent work by the artist. However, as there are minimal discourses on these recent works, ultimately I must draw my own interpretations and conclusions through analysis of the work.

Measurement: Room 1969 (Fig.7) consists of tape and self-adhesive vinyl numbers positioned on a wall mapping its perimeter. In this case Bochner used the walls of the Heiner Friedrich’s private gallery in Munich. The size of the work is determined by the installation, which means the dimensions of the piece may vary depending on its physical locations. The concept of measurement and how it is implemented question Bochners use of physical and perceptual space. To help us uncover this further Bochner explains his concepts of measurement, “Measurement is one of our means of believing that the world can be reduced to a function of human understanding. Yet, when forced to surrender its transparency, measurements reveal an essential nothingness” (Bochner 2008:98). With relation to his explanation it can be said that Bochner’s use of numerical measurements can be thought of as a tool, a type of language and a means of deconstructing a context in order for it to be understood. With regards to Measurement: Room (Fig.7), it must be remembered that the concept of measurement is a man made system; a human does not have a ruler inside their head, and for that reason measurement is merely a human construction based on perception. With this in mind, Bochner himself goes on to describe measurement as “a signifier with nothing to signify” (De Salvo:2005:33).

As Bochner has stated that measurements hold an essential nothingness, I begin to question their importance within the work. It is apparent when viewing the work the only thing the viewer’s have to compare with Bochners measurements are the measurements of themselves; which may be why Bochner used measurements in feet and inches. With this in mind, it can be questioned if the physical realisation of the surroundings can only be determined when the viewer is in relation to the work. To investigate this further, Yve-Alain Bois discovered that:

The measurements on the walls did not reach inside the door frames or window panes. In other words, the measurements did not map the space of the room as it would be experienced by the viewer. Instead, the measurements Bochner provided suggested a doubled and different space, like an architectural blueprint, a geometrical abstracted rendering of the physical space. The room had been measured, but this was not for the sake of the viewer. The realisation of this difference would produce a phantasmagoric feeling of estrangement” (De Salvo:2005:34). Bochner’s mapping the perimeter of the gallery suggests his interplay with human experience, how perception, imagination and the physicality of the space can alter and adjust according to the individual viewer. It is possible that Bochner wanted to cause friction between the viewer’s mental association of a measurement and their genuine experience of it, altering their entire experience of the work. Moreover, it could be stated his interplay with measurement may have been merely a concept of deconstructing a form.

Taking all these concepts into consideration my understandings of Measurement: Room (Fig.7) is not that of a sculptural work, but is still that of a three dimensional installation. It is difficult for me to see the work as a sculpture, given that the artist does not. However, one must still take into account that the architectural foundations used were not specifically produced in the work, but solely acted as a frame to the work. This particular frame (the gallery) isn’t a necessity to Bochners idea; in fact the work, to borrow from Bochner is “not a portable object, but a portable idea” (Bochner:2008:57). Given the context of when the work was considered offers an underlying significance on its position within the institution. In my understanding of this work Bochner sought after, as he declared in an Interview with Elayne Varian in 1969, to explore how “things are contained physically and mentally” (Bochner:2008:57) In my opinion, having a piece of work which speaks of confinement inside the gallery institution in the 1960’s holds a metaphor in itself. We must remind ourselves that in the 1960’s many artists felt the need to step away from the formal and aesthetic of the gallery institution. So, by creating a piece of work that can be transported, not only evades commodity but the locations where measurement can be utilized open up, questioning if the frame of the gallery is required at all. By exploring the notion of containment in a gallery emphasises the mental and physical confinement which artists in the 1960’s craved liberty from.

Copyright © 2010 by Clare Nattress

Measurement: Room (Fig.7) not only emphasises the areas of the gallery usually unnoticed by the art spectator, but uses a line of tape on a wall to contain a space. The galley then transforms from a building that houses art into the architectural frame of an artwork. Bochner also explores the relationship between negative and positive space to which it is questionable, what is contained and what isn’t, as is it difficult to comprehend the edges and boundaries of the frame. Referring back to what Yve-Alain Bois stated, it is agreeable Bochner may not have measured the space for the sake of the viewer, but it cannot be denied the concept of measurement will alter the viewer’s experience of the work. After all, Bochner is fascinated with how experience is formed.

In his later works, Bochner’s series of Thesaurus Paintings such as Meaningless 2003 (Fig.8), Nothing 2004 (Fig.9), and Money/Obscene 2006 (Fig.10) caught my eye. It was not only the placement of written language on a canvas but the way in which the colours used made certain words more prominent than others. The paintings begin with a key word which is selected by the artist; a thesaurus is then used as a resource in order to gather semantically related words. Bochner then paints the additional words on the canvas which follows on from the initial key word. The series of Thesaurus Paintings consist of oil and acrylic on canvas however in his 2006 work Money/Obscene (Fig.10) oil was applied to velvet.

Bochner’s Thesaurus Paintings stemmed from his interest in portraiture, he has stated that Rauschenberg’s Portrait of Iris Clert and Apollinaire’s Calligrammes were in the back of his mind when he approached the thesaurus as a resource (Bochner:2008:191). The relation of Calligrammes to Bochner’s paintings relate to the writings within This Is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault whereby the discourse of language as a form of visual representation is explored. Foucault states, “it is the possibility of repeating the same thing in different words, and profits from the extra richness of language that allows us to say different things with a single word” (Foucault:1983:21). This citation can directly link to that of Bochner’s use of the thesaurus and how it is implemented within his paintings in order to produce a portrait representation.

It is arguable if Bochner’s aim was to critique some of the language featured in the Roget thesaurus 2002 edition. In an interview with Mark Godfrey for Frieze in November-December 2004 Bochner states: “I was really surprised by the way it included not only more up to date vernacular, but outright obscenity. Since this is a book that gets into the hands of young students, it represented a huge cultural shirt in what was permissible. Whatever Roget’s intentions were, the thesaurus was adapting to contemporary mores” (Bochner:2008:193).

Bochner’s explanation demonstrates how language has adapted through time up to the point where slang words are becoming “ordinary” in everyday spoken and written language. This may certainly reflect the youth culture of this decade and the political upheavals surrounding the social classes not to mention the new creative forms of language used in online chatrooms, social networking sites and abbreviated text messages. Looking at the painting Nothing 2004 (Fig.9), words such as “zip” “goose egg” and “diddlyshit” stood out for the reason of personally not having any association to the word “nothing”.

To address this further, with relation to Bochner’s Thesaurus Paintings in order for the viewer to comprehend the visual representation of the painted words, the notion needed is common ground:

“Everything we do is rooted in information we have about our surroundings, activities, perceptions, emotions, plans, and interests. Everything we do jointly with others is also rooted in this information, but only in that part we think they share with us. Common ground is important to any account of language use that appeals to “context”. Most accounts don’t say what context is, but rely on our intuitions about the circumstances of each utterance” (Clark:1996:92)

Therefore, in agreement with Clark in order to understand the context of Bochner’s paintings a form of common ground must occur, this may depend on cultural communities. Within these cultural communities people can be categorised by what language they speak, where they are from and what interests they have. In relation to Bochner we can state his Thesaurus Paintings can only be entirely understood by English speakers. Moreover, in order to comprehend other semantically related words such as “goose egg”, knowledge of English and American culture is fundamental. Bochner has stated “If something doesn’t make sense to you at all, it is most probably because your toolbox is inadequate” (Bochner:2008:xiii). Having an inadequate tool box or not, the point here is that Bochner has created his paintings to an intended audience, in this case a gallery audience.

In order for Bochner’s paintings to be displayed in an asynchronous manner on the gallery wall, a joint action must occur between writer (Bochner) and the readers (gallery audience) acting in co-ordination with one another. Clark goes on further to state “We cannot hope to understand language use without viewing it as joint actions built on individual actions” (1996:4). Therefore, in order to comprehend Bochner’s Thesaurus Paintings meanings in language must be created mutually; therefore visual representations of these paintings may only be entirely understood by an intended cultural community. It is agreeable varied interpretations will be perceived, people may not have associated the words written with the stated synonyms’, and the “proper” words

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flowing into crude words may spark humour or disgust. Bochner’s influence of vision and perception is not only evident through his interplay with language but also in his use of colour.

The Thesaurus Paintings range from very bold and brightly painted words which jump of the surface of the canvas to words which are so similar to the background colour they prove difficult to decipher. It is evident the Bochner’s use of colour is to discord between the audience’s viewing and reading of the work. As the colours are so vivid, the viewer must view and read at the same time creating awkwardness to the flow of the words. Bochner has said “colour diverts the text from its duty of meaning” (Burton:2007:31). In agreement with Bochner using such a range of colours within a canvas size of 74x47 inches will undoubtedly create an overwhelming visual. To explain this further, looking at Money/Obscene 2006 (Fig.10) the words are so bold they are almost glowing; a mass of text is gathered together in a small space on the canvas making it extremely difficult for the reader to comprehend. Not only that, the Obscene (Fig.10) text is upside down which will provoke the reader to turn their head, proving somewhat impossible to decipher. If the viewer does not turn their head upside down they would have to read the semantically related words backwards, moreover, changing from one to the other will cause dizziness. Bochner has removed a sense of ability here from his viewers in contrast to his other Thesaurus Paintings, more words are incorporated and due to their closeness lines are inevitably going to be reread creating a disorientated feeling to his spectator. Unlike his other Thesaurus Paintings every letter in Money/Obscene (Fig.10) is a different colour therefore when some letters are close to the background colour a part of a word then becomes disjointed.

Bochner’s interplay between language and colour plays greatly with the viewer’s perception of the work. He not only emphasises the crude and offensive language of today but also his implementation of colour causes friction between reading and viewing the piece. It can be interpreted that Bochner’s use of language in his Thesaurus Paintings may have been a critical response to how language was believed to be transparent. Language cannot be seen as transparent, humans are not telepathic, and people all have varying concepts of the same representation of words. Taking this into account, it could be said that Bochner’s Thesaurus Paintings could be built upon over time and could expand further. I feel Bochner has already taken this into consideration because all his Thesaurus Paintings end in a comma not a full stop.

Conclusion In this dissertation the notions of language and space have been explored through key works by conceptual artists Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner. I have examined how and why language is used in their works, investigating the artists linguistically constructed declaration of intent. An analysis of the kind of language used and the subtle contextual changes of LeWitt and Bochner’s work from the 1960’s to (2007-present) has also been explored. Moreover, the experience of space and how it bears on the viewer’s perception has been unpicked with an intention to raise ideas, concepts and questions.

Throughout the analysis certain concepts such as the dissemination of ideas through form, deconstructing a context in order for it to be understood, and questioning if the idea and produced form are viewed as two artworks in their own right have raised questions in relation to my own practice. LeWitt’s use of instructional language furthers a two dimensional concept into a three dimensional structure, which I believe both, the idea and produced form, can be seen as two artworks in their own right. Thus emphasizing how written plans and information are essential to the produced form.

Bochner’s use of measurement has raised questions of deconstruction and containment of a physical space but also how measurement is merely a human construction based on perception. Moreover his Thesaurus Paintings, Meaningless 2003 (Fig.8), Nothing 2004 (Fig.9) and Money/Obscene 2006 (Fig.10) demonstrates how new forms of language have represented a cultural shift, to which slang words are becoming “ordinary” in everyday spoken and written language. It could be said that LeWitt and Bochner have created their works to an intended audience relating to my explanations of common ground and joint action. A further analysis of Bochner’s paintings uncovers how his use of colour discord between the audience viewing and reading the work. What’s more, how some colours glow of the canvas and others fade into the background colour cre-

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ating awkwardness when reading the synonyms. This concept of disjointed words can relate significantly to his critique of the language featured within the thesaurus, his titles Meaningless (Fig.8), Nothing (Fig.9) and Obscene (Fig.10) spark irony to the new forms of language we have today.



Bochner, M., 2008.Solar Systems and Rest Rooms Writings and Interviews 1965-2007. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Burton, J., 2007.Mel Bochner Language 1966-2006.Chicargo: The Art Institute of Chicago.

Clark.H.H.,1996.Using Language. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Crow, T., 1996.The Rise of the Sixties. London: The Orion Publishing Group.

De Salvo, D., 2005.Open Systems Rethinking Art. London: Tate Publishing.

Foucault, M., 1983. This is not a Pipe. Translated from French by J.Harkness. California: University of California Press.

Harrison,C., 2001. Essays on Art and Language. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

nd Harrison, C. & Wood, P., 2003.Art in Theory 1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. 2 ed. USA: Blackwell Publishing.

Lefebvre.H., 1991. The Production of Space.Translated from French by D.Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Meyer, J., 2000. Minimalism-Themes and Movements. London: Phaidon Press.

Saussure, F.,1972. Course in General Linguistics. USA: Open Court Publishing Company.

Publications available from Websites

Ostrow, S., 2003. Sol LeWitt [Internet] Bomb Magazine, New Art Publications. Available at: [Accessed 02 January 2010]. Lewallen, C. 2000. Sol LeWitt/Matrix 63 [Internet] University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. Available at: [Accessed 02 January 2010].

Personal Communication

Nattress, C., 2009 Discussion on Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner. [Presentation] Personal Communication, 24 November 2009.

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Figure 1: LeWitt. S., 1964 Standing Open Structure, Black. Image from .

Figure 2: Bochner.M., 1966 Working Drawings And Other Visible Things On Paper Not Necessarily Meant To Be Viewed As Art. Image from

Figure 3: LeWitt, S., 1966 Serial Project No.1 (ABCD). Image from

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Figure 4: LeWitt, S., 1995 New Structures. Image from: Meyer, J., 2000. Minimalism-Themes and Movements. London: Phaidon Press.

Figure 5: LeWitt, S., 1966 Serial Project No. 1 (ABCD), Poster and Plans for Sol LeWitt Exhibit, Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, April 1, 1967 Image from

Figure 6: LeWitt, S., 1978 1,2,3,4,5,6. Image

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Figure 7: Bochner, M., 1969 Measurement: Room. Image from

Figure 8: Bochner, M., 2003 Meaningless. Image from

Figure 9: Bochner, M., 2004 Nothing. Image from: Burton, J., 2007.Mel Bochner Language 1966-2006.Chicargo: The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Figure 10: Bochner, M., 2006 Money/Obscene Image from


Primary Communication with Bochner

Copyright © Clare Nattress, 2010. To reference this please state the follow: Nattress, C. (2010) An exploration on how Conceptual Art deals with language and space with specific reference to the works and writings of Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner, [Internet] Available from [accessed on date].