Craig Oates

Lawrence Weiner with Taken From the Wind & Bolted to the Ground


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This post is part of a series of blog posts called Noteworthy Artists and Artworks. For more information about the series, please read Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks. You can find the link at the end of this post.

Lawrence Weiner is an American artist. He was born in the Bronx, New York on 10th February 1946, and currently resides in New York. Weiner is most recognised as a conceptual artist – more specifically, the Post-Minimalist arm of conceptualism. The artwork I will be looking at today is called Taken from The Wind & Bolted to The Ground (fig. 1). It was part of the exhibition titled Gyroscopically Speaking and was held in Mariam Goodman gallery, New York – between December 2010 and January 2011.

Taken from the Wind and Bolted to the Ground
Figure 1: Taken From the Wind & Bolted to The Ground, 2009 by Lawrence Weiner

What is apparent with this piece is the conveying of information without a literal depiction of it. There is no wind or ground per se, but the image has taken a form. It does not even say what was taken, but you know what happened to it.

For my next point, please consider the image below (fig. 2). Wiener has been able to suggest movement using static elements. The phrase “Taken from the Wind” is running upwards. We know to interpret it as such because of the left-to-right nature of the English language. Comprehending “Bolted to the Ground” is how we determine the proceeding movement is downward. And, the words “Taken” and “Bolted” help imply the movement was a strained one. Lastly, all of this movement is happening as you look at it, but none of it physically moves.

Taken from the Wind and Bolted to the Ground
Figure 2: The compositional narrative of the piece.

Upon closer inspection, there are two "fragments" at play within the work. The first fragment we are presented with is a visual one, consisting of words and shapes. The second fragment, on the other hand, has no physical form at all.

Over time, I have fallen into the habit of referring to the first fragment as the “immediate-visual” and the second one as the “conceptual-image”. I must, stress here, though, I tend to use them as informal terms. I say that because they have an asymmetric feel to them which I am, at the time of writing this, unsure on. I cannot decide whether I should embrace or discard it or let it hang loose as an artefact of the creation process. So, until I resolve my doubts, I will refrain from cementing them as actual working terms. Regardless of the validity, this observation has influenced my thoughts on art. This is most notable in how I think about making work.

My artistic practice revolves around space as a starting point. It is here that I would like to highlight that “starting point” is used deliberately. This is because (amongst other things) I believe an artwork should grow over time, and Weiner has helped expand my understanding of what that means.

During my earlier years, I had a strong preference for artworks with a strong cerebral grounding. Unfortunately, there was a nagging frustration underlying theses types of artworks – which I could not understanding or shake-off. It took me a long time to recognise the cause of the frustration. What I have come to realise is, for my artwork to convey the points I wanted, the viewer needed to be primed with information outside of the pieces themselves. This more often than not led to anti-climactic and confusing experiences for the viewer.

Weiner helped me come to understand this by bringing to my attention the importance of the "immediate-visual". The cerebral aspect I gravitated toward is – in my opinion – at its best when you give the viewer everything they need with the piece itself. Where they go after the initial encounter is up to them. And, wherever they decide to go, they will not be hindered by a lack of necessary external information on my (or my works) part.

The conceptual/meta image that arises from Taken from the Wind & Bolted to the Ground (fig. 1)) is drawn from elements in the immediate-visual. The dependencies on external knowledge is kept to a minimum – knowing English will help though. Which brings us back to the previous point about growth.

For me, Weiner’s work feels like he has taken some seeds, planted them and watched them grow. He has put everything in place and let what comes after that develop of its own accord. What I mean by that is he has not strong armed me into viewing his work in a particular way, especially the meta-image. He has given the viewer some tools (I.E. visuals) and allowed him/her to do what they want with them.

As you can see, the portrayal of Weiner "planting seeds" has been influential for me, with regards to me adopting the idea of a "starting point". Weiner has, also, strengthened my mental flexibility for making work in this fashion. This flexibility is a must because you need to remember what one person knows another might not. Thus, the amount of interpretations grows as more view the work.

For extra insight into my thinking around utilising the concept of a starting point in my artistic practice please read another essay I have written, titled “What Do I Mean When I Say 'Starting Point'?" Link is below.