Primary Structural: Minimalist and Post-Minimalist Works on Paper
February 7–April 3, 1999
This winter P.S.1 presents an exhibition of outstanding Minimalist and Post-Minimalist works on paper, providing historical and artistic context to the Ronald Bladen: Selected Works exhibition which also opens February 7. From a group of early, never-before seen notebook drawings by Carl Andre, dated 1959-1960, to Lawrence Weiner’s All About Eve, 1992, this exhibition reflects the richness of thought and experimentation undertaken by more than thirty artists whose work reflects the fundamental tenets of Minimalism. Organized by Alanna Heiss, Primarily Structural shows the continuing importance and influence of Minimalism up to the present day.
The exhibition’s title is taken from one of the inaugural exhibitions of the Minimalist movement: Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in 1966. Some of the key artistic developments highlighted in that show can be seen in this exhibition of works on paper. A collection of drawings by Sol LeWitt reflect his rigorous investigation of the cube and divisions of space. Agnes Martin’s delicate graphite drawing Untitled from 1965 is a meditation on the intersection of lines, and the primacy of the grid. Patrick Ireland’s rope drawing is essentially repetitive and systematic, while Dan Flavin’s Untitled (to Virginia) (1972) uses machine-made graph paper as a structural surface.
A collection of drawings by architects and earth-work artists reflect some impulses concurrent and intersecting with Bladen’s and other Minimalist’s work. Robert Smithson’s Pierced Spiral (1971) for example, shares Bladen’s interest in large, dramatic, abstract forms, and projected grand scale. Mary Miss’s beautifully rendered architectural drawings delineate the heavily latticed structures which resemble the interior carpentry of Bladen’s sculptures, and Nancy Holt’s Waterwork (1983) traces an internal water system and creates simple geometric notation. In contrast to these works, Joseph Kosuth’s definition of structure locates it through language (he asks what the structure of structure is) in aesthetically spare type on a white wall.
Several drawings by Post-Minimalist artists show the transformation and continuing influence of Minimalist styles and strategies in later work. Jene Highstein’s enormous double drawing of a black line is both suggestively dramatic and more expressive in line quality, while still aesthetically spare. Following a different course, Brenda Miller’s Nesting Congruents series (1980) investigates cubic and architectural space, but through the medium of photography and with the subtle introduction of subjective elements such as an occasional body standing in a doorway. Niele Toroni’s I Giornali (1991) likewise introduces photographic images and printing, suggesting their potential for infinite repetition.
A complete list of artists included in Primarily Structural are Cecile Abish, Carl Andre, Larry Bell, Dan Flavin, Bob Grosvenor, Michael Heizer, Eva Hesse, Jene Highstein, Nancy Holt, Patrick Ireland, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Brenda Miller, Mary Miss, Robert Morris, Forrest Myers, Bruce Nauman, Max Neuhaus, Richard Nonas, Maria Nordman, Larry Poons, Dorothea Rockburne, Joel Shapiro, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Keith Sonnier, Niele Toroni, Richard Tuttle, and Lawrence Weiner.
Primarily Structural is curated by Alanna Heiss with assistance from Josette Lamoureux. In April the exhibition will be expanded to include an even more comprehensive drawing show titled 100 Drawings.
This exhibition could not have been produced without the generosity and cooperation of an enormous group of people. P.S.1 would like to thank the participating artists and lenders to the exhibition.