Lawrence Weiner

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Lawrence Weiner
Weiner in 2011
Lawrence Charles Weiner

(1942-02-10)February 10, 1942
New York City, US
DiedDecember 2, 2021(2021-12-02) (aged 79)
New York City, US
Known forConceptual art
Lawrence Wiener in Speaking Portraits

Lawrence Charles Weiner (February 10, 1942 – December 2, 2021) was an American conceptual artist. He was one of the central figures in the formation of conceptual art in the 1960s.[1] His work often took the form of typographic texts, a form of word art.

Early life and career[edit]

Lawrence Charles Weiner was born on February 10, 1942, in Manhattan, to Toba (Horowitz) and Harold Weiner.[2] His parents owned a candy store.[2] After graduating from Stuyvesant High School at 16,[3] he had a variety of jobs—he worked on an oil tanker, on docks, and unloading railroad cars. After studying philosophy and literature[4] at Hunter College for less than a year, he traveled throughout North America before returning to New York.[5]


Weiner is regarded as a founding figure of Postminimalism's Conceptual art, which includes artists like Douglas Huebler, Robert Barry, Joseph Kosuth, and Sol LeWitt.[3]

Weiner began his career as an artist as a very young man at the height of Abstract Expressionism. His debut public work/exhibition was at the age of 19, with what he called Cratering Piece. An action piece, the work consisted of explosives set to ignite simultaneously in the four corners of a field in Marin County, California. That work, as Weiner later developed his practice as a painter, became an epiphany for the turning point in his career.[6] His work in the early 1960s included six years of making explosions in the landscape of California to create craters as individual sculptures.[7] Weiner's early body of work is also known for his having created gestures described in simple statements leading to the ambiguity of whether the artwork was the gesture or the statement describing the gesture: e.g."Two minutes of spray paint directly on the floor.." or " A 36" x 36" removal of lathing or support wall ..." (both 1968). In 1968, when Sol LeWitt came up with his Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, Weiner formulated his "Declaration of Intent" (1968):

1. The artist may construct the piece.

2. The piece may be fabricated.

3. The piece need not be built.

Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.

Weiner created his first book Statements in 1968, a small 64-page paperback with texts describing projects. Published by The Louis Kellner Foundation and Seth Siegelaub, "Statements" is considered one of the seminal conceptual artist's books of the era. He was a contributor to the famous Xeroxbook also published by Seth Siegelaub in 1968. Weiner's composed texts describe process, structure, and material, and though Weiner's work is almost exclusively language-based, he regarded his practice as sculpture, citing the elements described in the texts as his materials.[8] In the late 1960s Weiner's work was published in 0 to 9 magazine, an avant-garde journal which experimented with language and meaning-making.

An important aspect of audience participation in Weiner's work is site-specificity. In SOME LIMESTONE SOME SANDSTONE ENCLOSED FOR SOME REASON (1993) he recast the iron weighbridge of the Dean Clough carpet factory, incorporating the words of the title as an embossing inscription.[9]

From the early 1970s on wall installations have been Weiner's primary medium, and he has shown at the Leo Castelli gallery. Recent examples can be found in numerous museum walls across the United States such as the A Wall Built to Face the Land and Face the Water at the Level of the Sea (2008), at Pérez Art Museum Miami.[10] Nevertheless, Weiner works in a wide variety of media, including video, film, books, sound art using audio tape, sculpture, performance art, installation art, and graphic art. In 2007, he participated at the symposium "Personal Structures Time-Space-Existence" a project which was initiated by the artist Rene Rietmeyer. In 2008 an excerpt from his opera with composer Peter GordonThe Society Architect Ponders the Golden Gate Bridge – was issued on the compilation album Crosstalk: American Speech Music (Bridge Records) produced by Mendi + Keith Obadike. In 2009 he participated in the art project Find Me, by Gema Alava, in company of artists Robert Ryman, Merrill Wagner, and Paul Kos.


Flakturm at Esterházypark in Vienna: Zerschmettert in Stücke (im Frieden der Nacht) / Smashed to pieces (in the still of the night) (1991)

A comprehensive retrospective of Weiner's nearly 50-year career was organized by Ann Goldstein and Donna De Salvo at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2007–2008. Major solo exhibitions of the artist's work have been mounted at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (1988/89), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1990), Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1991), Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1991), Musée d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (1991/92), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1992), The Arnhem (Sonsbeek) The Netherlands (1993) Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1994), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1994), Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1995), Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin (2000), Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City (2004), Tate Gallery in London (2006),[5] The Jewish Museum, NY (2012),[11] Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016),[12] and the Nivola Museum, Orani, Italy (2019).[13] He participated in Documenta V (1972), VI (1977), and VII (1982), as well as the 2005 Venice Biennale, the Biennale de São Paulo in 2006, and the Venice Biennale and European Cultural Centre in 2013 with his work 'The Grace of a Gesture'.[14]

Select list[edit]


Among his many honors were National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1976 and 1983), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1994), Wolfgang Hahn Prize (1995), a Skowhegan Medal for Painting/Conceptual Art (1999), An Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Graduate Center, City University of New York City, (2013),[24] the Roswitha Haftmann Prize, Zurich, Switzerland (2015),[25] and the Aspen Award for Art (2017).[26] On the occasion of the Drawing Center's 2012 Spring Gala, where Weiner was being honored for his contributions to contemporary art, fellow artist Ed Ruscha and Mason Williams created a three-minute tribute in the form of a parody of Bob Dylan's legendary music video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" with placards featuring Weiner text pieces like "stars don't stand still in the sky" and "water in milk exists."[27]


  • 2010 : Skimming The Water – Menage A Quatre - Lawrence Weiner (Personal Structures Art Projects Number 01)
  • 2012 : GREEN AS WELL AS BLUE AS WELL AS RED. Brest: Zédélé éditions, Reprint Collection. (First edition : London: Jack Wendler, 1972.)

Personal life[edit]

Weiner and his wife Alice[28] lived on Bleecker Street for over thirty years before moving to another residence and studio also in the West Village,[29] in what was once an old laundromat built in 1910 and was transformed into a five-level town house designed by the firm LOT-EK in 2008.[30]

Weiner died on December 2, 2021, in Manhattan, at the age of 79.[2][31]


Weiner's At the Same Moment painted on pilings in the East River, as seen in 2011
  • Beate Reifenscheid und Dorothea van der Koelen; Arte in Movimento – Kunst in Bewegung, Dokumente unserer Zeit XXXIV; Chorus-Verlag; Mainz 2011; ISBN 978-3-926663-44-3
  • Alberro, Alexander; Zimmerman, Alice; Buchloch, Benjamin H.D. and Batchelor, David. Lawrence Weiner. London: Phaidon Press, 1998.
  • De Salvo, Donna and Goldstein, Ann (eds.) Lawrence Weiner: As Far as the Eye Can See. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007.
  • Fietzek, Gerti and Stemmrich, Gregor. (eds.) Having Been Said: Writings & Interviews of Lawrence Weiner 1968–2003. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2004.
  • Schwarz, Dieter (ed.) Lawrence Weiner: Books 1968–1989. Köln / Villeurbanne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König / Le Nouveau Musée, 1989.
  1. ^ "Lists". ArtFacts.
  2. ^ a b c Kennedy, Randy (December 5, 2021). "Lawrence Weiner, Artist Whose Medium Was Language, Dies at 79". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Roberta Smith (November 16, 2007), The Well-Shaped Phrase as Art New York Times'.
  4. ^ "Lawrence Weiner". Retrieved August 5, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Lawrence Weiner Archived February 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Guggenheim Collection.
  6. ^ Lawrence Weiner: En Route, February 24 – April 2, 2005 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
  7. ^ "DIA Center Bio". Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved April 18, 2010.
  8. ^ Lawrence Weiner, October 19 – November 23, 2002 Archived December 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
  9. ^ Lawrence Weiner MoMA Collection, New York.
  10. ^ "A WALL BUILT TO FACE THE LAND & FACE THE WATER AT THE LEVEL OF THE SEA • Pérez Art Museum Miami". Pérez Art Museum Miami. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  11. ^ "Trilingual Lawrence Weiner on View at the Jewish Museum". The New York Observer. March 16, 2012.
  12. ^ "Lawrence Weiner".
  13. ^ "Lawrence Weiner al Museo Nivola: l'Installazione dell'artista newyorkese". June 25, 2019.
  14. ^ "Lawrence Weiner: The Grace of a Gesture". Artsy. May 24, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "Lawrence Weiner". Blenheim Art Foundation.
  16. ^ "ARTIST ROOMS: Lawrence Weiner – London | Tate". October 3, 2015. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015.
  17. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "The Jewish Museum New York | Art Exhibition | Lawrence Weiner: NO TRE…". April 16, 2013. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013.
  20. ^ "Water in Milk Exists | The Art Newspaper | Swiss Institute".
  21. ^ "LAWRENCE WEINER: Exhibition".
  22. ^ "Lawrence Weiner: Inherent in the Rhumb Line : New Visions : Art & New Visions : Explore online : RMG". April 3, 2012. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012.
  23. ^ "Arsenale Institute / The language of Lawrence Weiner". Retrieved February 24, 2023.
  24. ^ "Commencement 2013: Honorary Degree Citations". Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  25. ^ "Lawrence Weiner receives 2015 Roswitha Haftmann Prize / Art Review". Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  26. ^ "Lawrence Weiner wins Aspen Award for Art". February 24, 2017.
  27. ^ Bill Power (May 1, 2012), How Do Artists Say I Love You? New York Times.
  28. ^ Karen Wright (January 17, 2014), In the studio: Lawrence Weiner, artist The Independent.
  29. ^ Geoff Manaugh (April 2010), Village People Dwell.
  30. ^ Thessaly La Force (February 14, 2011), Studio Visit: Lawrence Weiner The Paris Review.
  31. ^ "Lawrence Weiner (1942–2021)". Artforum. December 2, 2021. Retrieved December 3, 2021.

External links[edit]