Daniel Buren Stays 2007
The photo shows one of a set of new “situated” works by Buren on show at the Lisson Gallery in London.
These pieces are a little bit obscure to me. I have the expectation that Buren’s work will reflect on the space around them, functioning as markers for the “invisible” structures they and the audience inhabit. But I am having great difficulty seeing the “material” that these particular pieces are working with.
With Buren’s show at Modern Art Oxford earlier this year, the structure of the pieces seemed to have a clearer connection to the spaces within which they sat. These new works, at least after my single visit, seems almost disconnected from the spaces, almost—shock, horror!—autonomous sculptures in their own right. This is particularly the case with the pieces Zigzag for Two Colours, sitting on the wall, looking for all the world like a Donald Judd stacked piece.
So where does that leave us in our understanding and interpretation of the works? Knowing Buren’s oeuvre, I cannot believe these pieces are divorced from the setting, therefore—since at first glance I have been unable to discern their meaning—there is the necessity to look again at the works and to find their methods and the meanings behind them. On the other hand, is that all Buren’s work is about, a geometrical elucidation of the systems that the artist works with in each work? It seems a bit sterile, although perhaps one could say the same of a LeWitt (granted of course that LeWitt and Buren are doing completely different things with their works) and then see how rich his pieces can become within that structure.
Perhaps the trickiness of this aspect of the work, the trickiness of recognising it, is being dealt with by the artist by the formal aspects of the pieces, the bright colours and simple forms as a “way in” to the work, an initial capture of the attention where subsequently a more in depth reading can be proposed through the extended viewing which the attraction has engendered.
Speaking personally, I am prepared to spend more time with the pieces to get beyond their “surface,” as it were. Although I may seem to be overly critical of Buren’s work recently, if I was uninterested in what it was doing I would not bother to write about it. It’s just part of my attempt to come to terms with his work that leads me to continually try to find it’s reasons, and to question them as part of my investigation. If I feel it comes up short, that could just as much be my own limitations as that of the artist. This is all part of an ongoing engagement with Buren’s work (and with other artists of course) that will continually develop as I become more experienced in criticism and the works themselves.