Robert Morris

Born in 1931, in Kansas City, USA.
Lives and works in New York, USA.


Hunter College, New York, USA

This is a striking work. It is made of a thick piece of felt 4.53 metres wide and 2.55 metres high. It is partially split five times at regular intervals across the width from the top, and is fixed to the wall via two points of attachment, at the top left and top right. The weight of this thick and dense material thus causes a bowed effect accentuated by the five incisions planned by the artist who cut it partially into equal strips. The lower part of the band resting on the ground thus supports the weight of the felt, limiting the bowing effect and in some way determining the form, radically characterised by the cutting of the five bands and the weight of the material. But the felt, its thickness and density contribute to this, and are its origin. If I emphasise the material nature of the work generating this effect, it is because it is, in a way, the model of the paradigm of the art of a period. This felt piece is the perfect illustration of Minimal Art. But at the same time, it has also provided the justification for numerous other aesthetic experiments such as, in France, those undertaken by the exponents of Supports/Surfaces. More than the primary structures of Judd or LeWitt, it is the taking into account of materials in the configuration and organisation of forms by Robert Morris that interested them. After seeing the felts of Robert Morris in 1968, Daniel Dezeuze retained the link between floor and wall engendering form. He revived the process that same year, but for other purposes and with other parameters. He mentioned this in a letter to Claude Viallat, who like Robert Morris cut out a large piece of cloth, but used it rather to play with the vibration of colour between the parts of the painted canvas and the white wall that the bowing effect causes. And in a certain way, this work has provided the grounds for partial splits and the placing of spacers between the two parts of a split tree branch characterising the early works of Toni Grand.

These are the reasons for my love at first sight. But not only. I like this work for its radicalism and the energy it gives off when we stand face to face to it. It imposes its visual effectiveness on us. It can be read first by the taut and almost caustic drawing born of the cutouts of its material. During the cutting, there was assuredly a drawing. But we do not see it by looking at the work. There is no effect of style or manner. Similarly, its powerful colour in which the light delves and is obscured requires a painterly decision but not actual painting. This said, nothing allows us to decide that this work is the affirmation of a feature of function - even that of functioning as art. While we have to remember that Robert Morris's use of felt is roughly contemporary to that of Joseph Beuys, comparing the two would be to commit an irreparable contradiction. Joseph Beuys explicitly links it to his biography while involving is also in his shamanic rituals. A work by Robert Morris intends neither to convey nor to express an ideology. Barely does it suggest what Daniel Dezeuze saw in it and described in his letter to Claude Viallat: the way it recalled the work of Fontana - the lacerated material - and the "all over" of Pollock - its extent defined by the limits, the stretcher, the piece of felt used. Admittedly, it follows a design but in no way sets out a concept for the viewer that its realisation would alter. In any case, it offers less a singular form that an anti-form whose banality defeats any convention. Contrary to the aspirations of Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris instead seeks to disturb the highlighting of the abstraction of the concepts by simply "showing" the inevitable aporetic embarrassment that the taking in hand raises and shapes by a series of trajectories often directed by unexpected topological choreographies.

Robert Morris is nonetheless one of the major figures of Minimal Art. Cloud, made in 1962, is one of its inaugural and foundational works. Definitions of Minimal Art have emphasised points in common between some American artists of the same generation. Today, after having listed them, historiography is undertaking a critical review necessary instead to highlight their differences and irreducible singularity. But at the same time, the sociology of art is quick to recognise in Europe and especially in France, Asia and Japan in particular, some similar and equally significant ruptures of a "moment" in which the standards and forms of traditions have lost all substance and in which artists reconnect with "primary structures", sources of "Renascences" foreshadowing Renaissances.

Bernard Ceysson
Group shows at Ceysson Gallery
Sculptures, Matters, Materials, Textures..., Offsite
September 10 - October 16, 2016

Shows (selection)

The Lemma LeadsM, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA
Blind Time Drawings, Haim Chanin Fine Arts, New York, USA

2001 - 2002
Finch College Project, 1969, recreated and installed in the Whitney Museum exhibition "Into the Light," New York, USA

Drawings, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA
Melencolia II, a permanent site-specific installation in marble, Collaboration with Claudio Parmiggiani, Collection of Giuliano Gori, Fattoria di Celle, Santomato, Pistoia, Italy
Hegel's Owl, a permanent site-specific installation in Carrara, Italy

Robert Morris: Early Felts, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA
White Nights, Le Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon, France
Fiberglass, Lead, Felt 1963-1966, Ileana Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA

Robert Morris: Retrospective of Prints and Multiples 1952-1998, Maison Levanneur, Centre national de l'estampe et de l'art imprimé, Chatou, France
Labyrinth, Le Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon, France

1997 - 1998
Steel sculptures, Pietro Sparta Gallery, Chagny, France

Robert Morris: Retrospective of Prints and Multiples 1952-1998, Cabinet des estampes du Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva, Switzerland
Mirror Works and the film Mirror, 1969, Le Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon, France
Robert Morris: The Rationed Years and Other New Work, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA

Horizons Cut: Between Clio and Mnemosyne, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA
Tar Babies of the New World Order, Nuova Icona, Venice, Italy.

Mirrors, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, USA, Work in the collection of Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, USA
Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem, Retrospective Exhibition, the Deichtorhallen Museum, Hamburg, Germany
Steam, site-specific work filling the interior courtyard of the Musée d'art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
Tempora Caeca, installation of wall drawings and Blind Time IV: Drawing with Davidson, 1991, Fattoria di Celle, Santomato, Pistoia, Italy
Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem, Retrospective Exhibition, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Sculptures, structures et textures
Art absolument - Tom Laurent
September 20, 2016
Voir le fichier
Sculptures, Matters, Materials, Textures... Foetz, Luxembourg
Sculptures, Matters, Materials, Textures... Foetz, Luxembourg
September 10, 2016