Artifex Press

Artifex Press Artifex Press is a publisher of digital catalogues raisonnés. Our catalogues are available through subscription. Our catalogues raisonnés include those for Chuck Close, Jim Dine, Tim Hawkinson, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Lucas Samaras, and James Siena.

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This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they ar...
01/13/2021

This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they are researching, sharing insights and discoveries gleaned during the intensive process of assembling a catalogue raisonné. This post is by Christopher Vacchio, Director of Research, Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings Catalogue Raisonné. Read the full series of posts at www.artifexpress.com/blog.

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When Sol LeWitt created his first wall drawing at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1968 for the Benefit For The Student Mobilization Committee To End The War in Vietnam (which was also the gallery’s first exhibition), his work was the only one not to carry a specific price—the price list noted the work was sold “by hour,” meaning it would be based on the cost of LeWitt installing the work on the buyer’s wall. Although the work didn’t sell during the exhibition, it was the beginning of LeWitt’s long history of highlighting the physical and financial cost of labor in his artworks, a focus directly tied to the leftist politics of the Vietnam War era in which artists and others in the art world began to align themselves as "art workers" within a capitalist system.

Perhaps the best-known of these works is "Wall Drawing #48," first installed for the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark Information exhibition, curated by Kynaston McShine. The title of the work, doubling as its instructions, was “Within four adjacent squares, each 4’ x 4’, four draftsmen will be employed at $4.00/hour, for four hours a day and for four days to draw straight lines 4 inches long using four different colored pencils; 9H black, red, yellow and blue. Each draftsman will use the same color throughout the four day period, working on a different square each day.”

The federal minimum wage in June 1970 was $1.45 an hour (equivalent to approximately $10 today), while the New York State minimum wage was about to be raised from $1.60 to $1.85 an hour (nearly $13 today). The disparity between the pay LeWitt afforded his drafters and the minimum wage is a reflection of the value LeWitt placed on his drafters and their work. As he became increasingly successful and the pace of his exhibiting quickened, he depended more and more on drafters to install wall drawings and considered their work integral to the realization of his vision. (LeWitt has been the subject of more than 700 solo exhibitions since the 1960s.)

In "Wall Drawing #43," first installed in April 1970, LeWitt made the tension between employee and employer intrinsic to the work. The instructions for the work as installed at Protetch-Rivkin Gallery, Washington, D.C., were “On the wall measuring 136" x 95" in the gallery, four draftsmen, each using a different color pencil (9H Black, Red, Yellow and Blue) will draw lines for as long as the gallery owners will pay them, but for a minimum of eight hours each. The placement of the lines will remain at the discretion of the draftsmen.” By setting a minimum time for the drafters to work, LeWitt ensured a level of visual completion to the work, as well as a minimum windfall for the drafters. But by leaving the amount of time beyond that up to the gallery owners, LeWitt created a tension between their desire to have a “finished” work to sell and their desire to minimize production costs.

In "Wall Drawing #25," first installed in 1969, the labor of the drafters is explicitly the subject of the work, because it can only be viewed while the drafters are at work, as their final act is to destroy it. The title of the work is “Four drafters each superimpose a band of parallel lines 36 inches (90 cm) wide in a different direction on a different wall on each of four days. On the fifth day they paint out the drawing.” LeWitt did not view the installation of his wall drawings as a performance or theater, and so the fact that this work can be viewed only while being installed implies a desire to make visible the labor and the laborers who physically create his works. LeWitt later cemented this idea by creating a cataloguing system whereby the first drafters of each wall drawing were recorded in the work’s caption and wall label, and the drafters of each individual installation are also listed. By doing so, LeWitt asserted that crediting the drafters by name was as integral to the work as other cataloguing details like title, medium, and date.

LeWitt entrusted many decisions in the execution of his work to the drafters. While the artist always took complete authorship of his works, in a meaningful number of cases he delegated significant decision-making responsibility to the drafter. The most significant examples are a subset of LeWitt’s location drawings, in which the language of the instructions defines the precise locations of points, lines, and geometric figures on the wall. For these works, rather than indicating the exact locations of the figures, LeWitt's instructions say, “The specific locations are determined by the drafter.” Thus, every installation of these works is completely different, the visual result of decisions by the drafter, as anticipated by LeWitt. Although LeWitt once commented, “what the work of art looks like isn’t too important,” it takes a great deal of trust to allow someone else to make such important decisions affecting the outcome of the work.

For decades now, the LeWitt Studio, which comprises his drafters and the several chief assistants who oversee them, has functioned as a sort of mini jobs program for working artists. Working as a LeWitt drafter has allowed many younger artists to have flexible work and steady income, so that they could focus on their own studio practices fully at other times. (This is in contrast to LeWitt’s own experience—and that of several contemporaries such as Robert Mangold and Dan Flavin—working the night shift at the Museum of Modern Art so that he could dedicate himself to artmaking during the day.) A number of artists who would go on to widespread acclaim have worked on wall drawings, among them Glenn Lewis, Christian Marclay, Kazuko Miyamoto, Matt Mullican, Adrian Piper, Cindy Sherman, and James Welling. LeWitt was known to give works as gifts to thank the drafters of important exhibitions, to anonymously buy the work of artist friends he wanted to support, and to trade works with artists without regard for the relative financial value of the works. Many of these artists have long commented on LeWitt’s influence on their work. Perhaps more importantly, they have also spoken of his quiet mentorship and generosity in giving them the means to advance their own careers, and his support in helping them navigate the art world on their own terms.

This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they ar...
01/06/2021

This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they are researching, sharing insights and discoveries gleaned during the intensive process of assembling a catalogue raisonné. This post was written by Associate Editor Christopher Vacchio. Read the full series at www.artifexpress.com/blog

Tim Hawkinson uses a staggering array of materials and processes to transform everyday objects into idiosyncratic artworks. The utterly eclectic nature of Hawkinson’s practice makes generalization impossible, but throughout his career, the artist’s systematic use of his own body and his dark sense of humor are trends that have stayed consistent across all of his works.

In one early work, "Echocardiograph Landscape" (1988), the artist used the results of a medical procedure, and the graph of his heartbeat it contained, to determine the heights of the trees in a landscape watercolor painting. The juxtaposition between the implied stress of the medical procedure and the calm of the watercolor landscape creates a sense of unease.

Hawkinson’s focus on the materiality of his body can be literal as well—he frequently uses his body as a tool or a material in creating his works. For instance, in "Bird" (1997), his own fingernail clippings served as the material for the work, serving as the bones of the tiny bird, which were bound together with superglue. He even let his fingernails grow out in order to create the bird’s skull and beak in single pieces.

Later, in works like "Stalk" (2018), Hawkinson used impressions of his elbows, hands, feet, and even his belly button as casts, combining the shapes of those body parts into multifaceted works in sometimes humorous, sometimes menacing ways.

"Blindspots" (1991) reveals the combination of Hawkinson’s conceptual attitude to materiality and his use of his body. The artist used a pen to draw the edge of his field of vision onto his own skin, creating an outline of the parts of his body he could not see without an aid like a mirror. He then photographed those areas and made a composite map of his body’s “blind spots.” The work represents both a self-portrait and the antithesis of one, since it only depicts areas of the body the artist can never himself see.

Preconceiving the physical making of an artwork according to a specific system is also a recurring theme in Hawkinson’s oeuvre, with the artist interested in the tension between system and the nature of his medium. In "Averaged Vitruvian Man" (2016), the artist took photos of each of his body parts, down to his fingers and toes, and then printed them as identically-sized images, each of which was wrapped around a plastic soda bottle. The result underscores that photography is more than a documentary medium, and highlights the psychological tension embodied in one’s self-concept, when how a person sees themselves often comes into conflict with reality.

In thinking about Hawkinson's work, I am reminded of the Ludwig Wittgenstein quote, "The human body is the best picture of the human soul" (Philosophical Investigations II, iv, 1953). Our bodies are how we communicate with one another, through making or doing, something that Hawkinson highlights in his work by foregrounding the physicality and mutability of our human forms, coupled with a healthy dose of absurdity.

Artifex Press is pleased to announce that it will be offering free access to the James Siena Catalogue Raisonné, edited ...
01/05/2021

Artifex Press is pleased to announce that it will be offering free access to the James Siena Catalogue Raisonné, edited by Ariela Alberts, beginning January 15, 2021, and running through the end of February. Free access to the Tim Hawkinson Catalogue Raisonné has been extended through January 14, 2021.

The James Siena Catalogue Raisonné is the definitive record of all paintings, sculptures, and gouaches created by the artist dating back to 1989, the year that he began to paint almost exclusively on metal, a decision that defined his painting practice for nearly three decades, until he began working with large-scale canvases in 2017. Also included is an extensive selection of early works dating from 1977 to 1988. Siena’s voice is found throughout the catalogue in excerpts of interviews and, notably, in comments that he has written exclusively for this publication. Last month, the catalogue was updated with the artist’s newest works from 2020, providing the most up to date overview of his oeuvre. Read more about Siena’s latest series of work on the Artifex Press blog.

If you have already registered for free access to our site, your account will automatically grant you access to this publication. If you have not yet registered, you may do so at www.artifexpress.com.

The James Siena Catalogue Raisonné will be available for free through the end of February 2021, as part of Artifex Press’s ongoing effort to provide access to its catalogues at a time when many libraries and institutions are closed to the public to combat the spread of COVID-19.

This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they ar...
12/23/2020

This is the latest in a series of blog posts in which Artifex Press staff members delve deeper into the artworks they are researching, sharing insights and discoveries gleaned during the intensive process of assembling a catalogue raisonné. This post was written by Ashley Levine, Archivist/Digital Resource Manager. Read the full series at www.artifexpress.com/blog.
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By the end of the 1960s, both Sol LeWitt and Robert Irwin were expanding their respective oeuvres beyond the parameters of traditional painting and drawing. Instead of traditional art objects, they created installations that were ephemeral (and tied to specific moments in time) and that responded to architecture (tied to specific places). It is often said that these are works that must be experienced in person, and this is certainly the case. But what I want to write about today is the unique vantage point I have as Artifex Press Archivist/Digital Resource Manager, where I’ve had the opportunity to compile, organize, and examine photography of both artists’ bodies of work, including when a single work spans multiple decades and locations. It’s a visual record that reveals the paradoxical fluidity of art fixed in architecture, or as Robert Irwin might call it, “a conditional art.”

A LeWitt Wall Drawing can be executed in a single location, destroyed, and then reinstalled elsewhere, while theoretically remaining the same work. The ostensibly static concepts embedded in the Wall Drawing Diagrams (essentially, blueprints for each work) permit enough flexibility to respond to the architectural particulars of each space. Therefore, many individual wall drawings have been adapted to disparate architectural settings over multiple subsequent installations. Artifex’s collection of photos help document the evolution of individual wall drawings over time, and illustrate the application of LeWitt’s concepts in various environments.

For example, in June 1986, LeWitt first installed "Wall Drawing #483" at Magasin - Centre National d'Art Contemporain de Grenoble, France. LeWitt installed this work adjacent to other similar wall drawings, such that the rightmost portion of "Wall Drawing #482" actually extended onto #483's leftmost portion. The photographs here illustrate the monumental scale of the installation—as well as its side by side placement with other wall drawings—both direct responses to the vast open space of the venue.

In 2000, LeWitt reinstalled the same work in much tighter confines. For his career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, LeWitt created a "Four-row wall drawing," by installing together nine wall drawings comprising 35 parts in total, which were divided and bordered by black bands. Here, *Wall Drawing #483* was grouped among a diverse selection of LeWitt’s other, non-pyramid wall drawings, spanning his career. The work appears in the below photo, second row from the top, third wall drawing from the left.

The third and most recent installation of *Wall Drawing #483* occurred posthumously at Evans Hall at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2013. Here, the drawing occupied an entire wall, without any other works competing for space.

These three installations represent executed variations of a single conceptual work, and demonstrate the ways in which LeWitt’s seemingly fixed concepts respond to dynamic physical environments. His wall drawings are able to leap from a static page into any number of real spaces, as long as a wall exists.

Interestingly, Robert Irwin initially forbade public dissemination of photography of much of his output of the late 1960s and early 70s. He felt that one had to experience the objects and spaces in person to properly comprehend his work. However, through the ongoing research on Robert Irwin’s oeuvre, I’ve encountered hundreds of images of Irwin’s early works (often taken behind the scenes by friends, and the museums and galleries hosting his work), including of his earliest site-specific projects. And I’ve had the opportunity to compare this photographic record with architectural drawings, blueprints, and other planning documents, to get a sense of what a particular project looked (and felt) like.

In 1970, Martin Friedman, director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, invited Irwin to the inaugural exhibition at the museum’s new building, scheduled to open in May 1971. Friedman expressed interest in the “stretched transparent fabric” that he had seen in Irwin’s Market Street studio in Venice, California the year prior—a work that was essentially Irwin’s first installation of its kind. Irwin agreed to execute a variation of the Market Street work, using scrim material (to meet fire codes), and deciding to focus on the Walker’s ceilings, in Gallery 1.

Four years later, in 1975, in advance of his first solo exhibition at the Walker, Irwin produced a large plan, numbered “3”, that altered details of the initial installation. For this reinstallation (to occur in 1976), Irwin attached the scrim to the third, rather than the second, coffer of Gallery 1, bringing the entire installation further away from the rear wall. Further, the fluorescent lights illuminating the work, which had previously been spaced apart, now abutted each other, and the previously untitled work received a new title, "Slanting Light Volume." The Walker subsequently re-installed the work in 1976, 1984, and 1989, according to these adjusted instructions.

In 2009, Irwin adapted the work a third time, now to accommodate the museum’s new Friedman Gallery. Using his Gallery 1 plan as a reference point, Irwin lowered the Friedman Gallery’s 16 foot ceiling by five feet (accomplished by attaching a board vertically to the ceiling), to meet the height of the original installation. He attached scrim to the bottom of the lowered ceiling coffer and stretched it at the same angle as he had previously done in Gallery 1.

While both LeWitt and Irwin’s works are theoretically fixed in their respective planning documents—LeWitt’s generic, architecture-devoid Wall Drawing Diagrams, versus Irwin’s highly detailed architectural drawings—understanding how works actually responded to different physical spaces involves synthesizing the information in these plans with the historical photographic record.

My role as Artifex archivist has afforded me an opportune vantage point on the evolution of both LeWitt and Irwin’s work and careers. With direct access to the visual breadth of these installations over time, I have been able to see aspects of the works that in-person, single-exhibition viewers will miss. I am afforded a lens into individual wall drawings and site-specific works installed in multiple contexts, rather than in exhibition-specific isolation. Comprehensively cataloging LeWitt and Irwin’s works requires pulling together documentary materials from various museums, galleries, artist studios, libraries, archives, etc., emphasizing the crucial role of archival records and institutional collaboration in constructing digital catalogues raisonnés.

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