new-york

John McCracken

Zwirner & Wirth

It’s a truism that the simplest problems are the toughest to crack, and a question posed some forty years ago by the artist John McCracken is no exception: “If a piece is blue, what color is the space around it?” Scrawled into the pages of a notebook, the riddle has a slightly Wittgensteinian flavor. (It was the author of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus [1921] who wrote, “This space I can imagine as empty, but I cannot imagine the thing without the space.”) Yet McCracken has spent decades pondering relationships between things and the spaces they inhabit, less as a purely cerebral exercise and more as a materially intuitive one. After asking what color the space around a blue piece might be, he proceeds by way of building that object and then putting it somewhere to see what happens.

What happens is, of course, both as simple and as complex as the question itself. McCracken produces objects

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