Lawrence Weiner is born in New York in 1942. He grows up in the South Bronx. and studies at Hunter College where he first concentrates on literature and philosophy. Yet he soon manifests an interest in the art scene. Weiner does not finish his studies, but travels instead. In 1963 one of these travels takes him to Europe, and especially to Paris.
Around 1960 he creates his first sculptures and paintings, among them the Cratering Pieces where Weiner experiments with explosive eruptions that cause craters in the ground. With these craters the artist wants to probe the boundaries of sculpture as medium. First exhibitions follow in 1966 at the New York Gallery Seth-Siegelaub. At an early time, Weiner positions himself with the distinct claim that works of art do not owe their existence exclusively to their material transformation. He is interested in a reflection on the work of art as a creative idea and on its realization not within the realm of the material form, but on a conceptual level. Soon, language and, more specifically, writing, emerge as the exclusive artistic medium in Weiner’s work. His speaking about artistic objects, actions, materials, or processes creates the work of art on a purely conceptual level. Weiner presents his arguments in a rather matter-of-fact, documentary style. As with a manual, the defamiliarized meaning of his words only becomes accessible after reading them several times.
One of the main representatives of Concept Art, Weiner publishes a series of »language works« in the book »Statements« (1968). In these works he also names the conditions underlying his concept of art, according to which works of art do not need to be executed. Moreover, they may also be produced by others. Still, Weiner does not consider himself to be a »writer,« a producer of literature, but sees himself as an artist. The typeface and the arrangement of the text, but also the very site of display become aesthetic specifications of his work.
In 1969 Weiner participates in the exhibition »When attitude becomes form« which takes place in Bern. After 1972 his work is regularly presented at the Documenta. It is characterized less through ruptures, but rather through a continuity based on a strict adherence to his concepts. Weiner also considers this to be a means to subtly subvert traditional notions of art. Yet his work does not restrict itself to the printed media. Weiner also uses records, videos, and audiotape.
While he first publishes his texts on posters, on the façades of houses, and in newspapers, he also starts to apply his mural writing within the museal interior and exterior. His texts tend to make explicit reference to the conditions of the actual site where they are displayed (Ein bißchen Zeit + ganz viel Ebbe -Time + Tide, 1989). His work for the Neue Museum Weserberg in Bremen thus consists of writing the following text on the exterior wall of the museum: HAVING BEEN / BUILT ON SAND / WITH ANOTHER BASE / (BASIS) IN FACT AUF SAND GEBAUT / TATSÄCHLICH (AUS) / AUF ANDEREM GRUND.
With NACH ALLES / AFTER ALL Weiner creates a commissioned work for the German Guggenheim Museum Berlin.
Lawrence Weiner lives in New York and Amsterdam.
Gefragt und gesagt. Schriften & Interviews von Lawrence Weiner, 1968 — 2003, hg. von Gerti Fietzek u. Gregor Stemmrich, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004
Lawrence Weiner: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein Ruhr Essen, hg. v. Peter Friese u. Gregor Stemmrich, Essen 2003
Lawrence Weiner. Nach alles = Lawrence Weiner. After all: Ausst.-Kat. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, New York 2000
Show (&) tell, the films & videos of Lawrence Weiner: Ausst.-Kat. hg. v. Bartomeu Mari, Gent 1992
Lawrence Weiner. Works from the Beginning of the Sixties towards the End of the Eighties: Ausst.-Kat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1988