New York

Art in Process IV

Finch College

Mrs. Elayne Varian, organizer of Finch College’s “Art In Process IV” show, thinks it’s nice to show preparatory sketches, memoranda, notes, etc., along with the work of art, so that viewers can get some idea of the “process” of creation. She framed all the notes and sketches and instructions the artists provided, and hung them on the wall, sometimes even when there was no creation to go with the process of creation. Most of the written material consisted of letters to Mrs. Varian saying, “Yes, I’d love to be in the show. Here is how you assemble my work.” (Of these the most grateful-sounding was Barry Flanagan.) Some of the other stuff was pretty good. An exhausted note from Larry Weiner leaving it to Mrs. Varian as to whether she should actually splash water on the wall or just think about splashing water on the wall. Mel Bochner started scrawling mad-genius stuff like, “Imagine an infinitesimal visual calculus.” Carl Andre showed the process of creation by a careful graph-paper sketch of how to pile 120 bricks in two 60-brick squares. There were lots of hi-jinks in the catalog statements as well. “With the foam pieces,” writes Lynda Benglis, instantly earning the award for Catalog Statement of the Year, “I am continuing my questioning of formal considerations.”

In spite of all this levity there are some uncommonly good pieces in the show. Carl Andre’s brick piece is a modest one, quietly reiterating the principles on which his sculpture has been based for the better part of a decade. Eva Hesse’s is probably the only piece in the exhibition that has nothing to scream about, no manifesto to adhere to and no theory to back it. It is Abstract Expressionist sculpture of a higher order than I would have thought possible, an inspiration I would not have thought available to a younger artist. Her work here struck me as being as stumbling and as deeply felt, as expressive and as inchoate as, say, a work like Pollock’s She Wolf.

Robert Morris produced an Art in Process, just as the show called for. A constantly rotating camera photographed all four walls of a room and everything happening in it as Morris and his aides solemnly put up a large mirror, panel by panel, and then a large photo mural (of a bunch of people watching a movie) panel by panel. No sooner up than both mirror and mural were taken down, panel by panel. The work done, the film was developed, looped into a constantly rotating projector in the same room and shown against the very walls on which the actions it depicted had taken place. It is not only Art in Process, but an art in constant process, in process and nothing else, more process than anyone had bargained for. Duchampian and arch, the piece hearkens back to the Morris of the Box With Sound of its Own Making.

The show has one of Bruce Nauman’s best pieces, Lighted Performance Box, an ingenious two-part sculpture. The column of the box is a strong sculptural shape, the kind whose “gestalt” is supposedly delivered at a glance. But what is also delivered at a glance is an imperative to look upward at the square of light thrown onto the ceiling by the lamp within the box. Once noted, the patch of light can’t simply be ignored. Taking it into account gives you a two-part sculpture which you “view” by moving your head up and down, like a yo-yo.

Philip Leider