UntitledArtist(s)Robert MorrisObject Creation Date1965Medium & Supportsculptmetal, plaster, oil, zinc photographic plate, lead plate and burlap on canvasDimensions
5 ft. 11 1/4 in. x 5 ft. 11 in. x 4 1/2 in. (180.98 x 180.34 x 11.43 cm)Credit LineGift of the Lannan Foundation in Honor of the Pelham FamilyLabel copy
As both an artist and a writer, Robert Morris played a central role in the development of minimalism and process art during the 1960s and 70s, especially through his integration of time into discussions of sculpture. With a background in modern dance, Morris theorized the experience of Minimal art as a perceptual system made up of the changing relations between the viewer’s body, the work, and the space of the gallery. As the art object becomes but one of the terms in this fluid system, meaning comes to be understood as something generated though use and experience rather than something determined by compositional decisions on the part of the artist.
In this work, Morris presents an ironic commentary on the myth of the artist’s “hand” as a guarantor of aesthetic authenticity. Rather than positing the hand as the heroic link between the marks on the canvas and the body of the artist, Morris twice literalizes its absence. Two plaster molds of the artist’s absent hands—index fingers extended—point to the very center of the composition, while below them sits a soft lead plate bearing the impression of an empty pair of gloves, a plaster impression of uncertain origin, and a photographic plate bearing the image of another work by the artist. Morris draws a structural analogy between these three as pure imprints, aesthetic marks that are nevertheless free of expressive content. All three serve to mutely register the past presence of a now-absent subject.
Literal and straightforward references to the body have been “frozen” into the soft, manipulable Sculptmetal and lead plates, which are set into the canvas and flush with the surface. The photographic plate has an image of a fired bullet from an earlier Morris lead piece.Physical Description
three aluminum-painted canvas panels joined in the back to form a square, with five inlays of Sculptmetal, zinc photographic plates and leadPrimary Object Classification Painting Primary Object Typeshaped canvasAdditional Object Classification(s)Mixed MediaCollection AreaModern and ContemporaryRights
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modern and contemporary art