Los Angeles

Robert Morris

Irving Blum Gallery

Robert Morris’s two sculptures are not much to look at, but quite a bit to think about (which is Morris’s continuing point). Horizontal Spill involves two dozen pieces of heavy lumber stacked, jacked, then spilled over; the location of the wood after the crash, plus the shade-tree lifting mechanism is the visible result. Vertical Spill is four similar but shorter boards similarly dumped, only from the butt end of the stack. The pieces can be apprehended on several levels. As configurations, objets d’art, escorted by associations of traditional sculpture (up to Caro), they are awkwardly powerful, brutal, “tough,” but somewhat aimless. As historical evidence, fossils of the creative act (which was offered as an event), they exhibit a raft of Abstract Expressionist mannerisms—the timber smell, the sawer’s markings on the board ends, the leftover jack. As theater, they’re stumpy and limited: raw lumber in a nice little gallery (bang!) and that’s it.

On the basis of this show, augmented by several graphic works (orthodoxly signed in elegant pencil hand), Morris seems to be pursuing his premises (cf. “Notes on Sculpture”) to the point where, conceiving that anything can be done, he is self-obligated to do anything. Thus, he retains integrity as an operative human being, but levels out art-quality considerations in such wholesale lots that he, folksily put, burns the barn to roast the pig: once the idea of anything is done, once, redoing it is not bad art, but redundantly didactic art.

––Peter Plagens