Accession Number


Robert Barry

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
transfer type on paper

7 1/16 in x 7 1/16 in (17.94 cm x 17.94 cm)

Credit Line
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the Nation Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services

Label copy
Robert Barry
United States, born 1936
Transfer type on paper

Subject matter
Robert Barry was among the first wave of conceptual artists of the 1960s and early 1970s who made art that was primarily text- and language-based rather than the traditional pictorial orientation of the visual arts. Barry chose combinations of words that seem to be related in some way. For example “obtain/ clarity” could read as a sentence, and although “come/ startle” seems to be of a similar construction, does not work like the first pair. As Anne Rorimer explained, “Words are used in Barry’s artwork to evoke the notion of open-ended space and open-ended meaning.... [T]he viewer is left free to bring their own meaning to the work. But the works also invite participation, allowing viewers to flex their imagination.” (cited in Benjamin Genocchio, “A Career Built on Exploring the Boundaries of Art,” NY Times, 30 Nov 2003)

Physical Description
Diptych of two square sheets of paper printed with words and lines. Left: Four lines along the diagonal divide the sheet into four triangles. The lines do not intersect in the middle, and stop just short of the corner of the paper. On each line are two words, one right side up, the other upside down. The “pairs” are (from center out, clockwise from top left): inner/ most; obtain/ clarity; come/ startle; replace/ toward. Right: A square is printed just inside the edges of the sheet. On each line are two words, one right side up, the other upside down. The “pairs” are (from top, left to right): lure/ handle; never/ given; random/ roam; diminish/ scale.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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literary theory
text (layout feature)

& Author Notes

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