"Held Rectangles"

Artist John C. Fernie jumps on the frame
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REVIEW In Lawrence Weiner's 1968 piece, A 36" X 36" REMOVAL TO THE LATHING OR SUPPORT WALL OF PLASTER OR WALL-BOARD FROM A WALL, the title functions as a set of instructions for a physical action that must be performed to complete the work. Like a number of Weiner's other pieces in the same vein, the result varies based on where the piece is installed and/or executed, making for a work of art that is difficult to re-create identically. For these reasons, Weiner's art seems to defy substantive definition. Since the artist does not seem to favor a specific environment in which to create the work, the piece becomes transient and ephemeral unless permanently installed — and even in this case, it co-exists simultaneously with other iterations elsewhere.

While the piece by Weiner currently on view in the small exhibit "Held Rectangles" at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum does not include a physically executed element, aside from the typographical installation of the words A RECTANGULAR REMOVAL FROM A XEROXED GRAPH SHEET IN PROPORTION TO THE OVERALL DIMENSIONS OF THE SHEET (1977), the construction of a geometric form is implied. Not only does the Weiner text allude to an act, it is based on a subjective set of parameters that, like A 36" x 36" REMOVAL, resist redundancy. In spite of his succinct instructions and regularized typeface, the phrase describes an abstract shape that is never defined but rather assumed.

By contrast, John C. Fernie's Held Rectangles Series (c. 1970) begins with a physical object, recognized as a frame, examined through its 360-degree rotation and documented in a series of eight photographic screen prints. Unlike Weiner's open instructions for a shape, Held Rectangles Series is defined, though the content it frames is not. In this case, the frame, like the shape in Weiner's piece, becomes a study of a cultural signifier, its historical implications disturbed by its placement within the context of conceptual art.

HELD RECTANGLES Through Aug. 3. Wed.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft, Berk. $4–$8 (free first Thurs.). (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

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