Within and Beyond the Frame
1973 at the John Weber Gallery, NYC
In the 1970s, French artist Daniel Buren attacked art as an institution. He began with plastering industrially produced striped canvases all over Paris and art galleries. His work was a calculated attack on painting, everything painting stood for and the cult of personality that rose around painters and their work. The industrial canvases stripped his installations of the evidence of an artist’s hand — no brush strokes, just mechanically produced lines at even intervals. In 1973 Buren installed a string of these through the John Weber Gallery and over the street. The dimensions of the gallery’s windows determined the dimensions of the canvases, exposing the gallery as system of power that directs artistic vision.
The great thing about this work is the contrast between those canvases in the gallery and those hanging over the street. The canvases in the gallery remained calm and protected while the ones over the street were slowly eroded and slowly faded over the course of the installation. What Buren revealed is that the museum/gallery is a space the protects art, perhaps even sterilizes it. In the end, Buren’s installation is a work of spatial politics — it is a work that calls into question inside and outside, inclusive and exclusive, and site specificity.