Los Angeles

Robert Morris

Dwan Gallery

This is the first Los Angeles exposure of a body of Morris’ recent, widely-publicized work in which he has attempted to reduce the traditional qualities of sculpture—tactility, visual incident and structure—based on extra-optical premises to a kind of total gestalt experience. One does not see these simple, neutral, grey polyhedrons in the conventional sense of seeing sculpture. Rather, the pieces are sensed as spatial amalgams, objects that disrupt or comment upon the space of the room. Interest in the shapes themselves is quickly diminished, leaving an impression of scale as the dominant tension-causing device. One must walk around a twenty-foot long pentahedron to cross the room, or one senses a kind of tension as he walks between four separated quarters of a truncated pyramid. The room, and the people in it, become important to the experience in an extension of the manner in which the wall becomes an important adjunct to the non-rectangular paintings of Frank Stella.

In addition, light plays a role. Planes that angle upward catch more light than vertical planes, and, thus, become more interesting. Horizontals are rare in this show except when they occur close to the floor in beam forms where they are the most visible plane. One piece uses light to obviously disrupt the gestalt, and at the same time to emphatically restate its power. It is a ring formed by two bent, semicircular beams, each with a fluorescent light source within each end. When the pieces are juxtaposed to complete the ring there remains a strong visual division between the parts, but interestingly, our visual experience still forces us to read the total form.

The prime significance of these sculptures is the effect of forcing the viewer into a kind of gestalt showdown. These non-reducible, closed forms sit uncomfortably in the gallery space, or, in gestalt terms, the “visual field,” and permit of no direct anlysis. Thus, they force the viewer into analyzing the field itself and disrupting his organizational habits. Morris has here accomplished an important break with past sculpture, which has tended to serve as a free-standing, three-dimensional pictorial or iconographical device, by creating a sculpture that serves to redirect the entire environmental experience.

Don Factor