Object as Multiple: 1960-2000, Stephen Wirtz Gallery

Today we look at a particularly fun exhibition Object as Multiple: 1960-2000 at the Wirtz Gallery here in San Francisco. It presented examples of multiples, pieces other than traditional prints or casts that could theoretically be repeated ad infinitum – though in reality they are limited editions – by many of the well-known artists of the mid 20th century.

[Sol Lewitt. Cube Without a Cube, 1996.  Edition of 42.  All images courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery.]

One of the things that made this exhibition fun was identifying the pieces by these artists without labels, and then seeing if one’s guesses were in fact correct. Some were quite easily recognizable. For example, Donald Judd’s Untitled (1971) was essentially a single box from his minimalist stacked-box pieces that appear in SFMOMA and elsewhere. Similarly, I could easily pick out Sol Lewitt’s Flat Topped Pyramid and Cube without a Cube with their geometric construction, again very minimalist. I may not have been able to pick out Man Ray’s L’ Indicateur without some hints.

[Donald Judd. Untitled, 1970.  Edition of 50.]

[Sol LeWitt. Flat Topped Pyramid, 2005. Edition of 6.]

[Man Ray, L’ Indicateur, 1969.  Edition 1 of 25.]

These relatively small pieces, along with John Cage’s Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel provided a chance to commune with some my modernist heroes from both visual art and music in a relatively intimate setting.

[John Cage. Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, 1969.  Edition of 125.]

With Cage’s piece in particular, there is an integration of music, text and visuals in a compact object, along with his dry sense of humor. Sol Lewitt’s pieces have that simple comforting geometry (you can see larger examples in , but there is again a bit of humor and play in the title “Cube without a Cube.”  Larry Bell’s Untitled (ca 1970) has a similar geometric quality, but projected onto two-dimensions.

[Larry Bell. Untitled (ca 1970).  Edition of 150.]

Another piece that referenced music was Claes Oldenburg’s Miniature Soft Drum Set. Think of it as a “deflated drum set,” one part surreal, one part rather cute:

[Claes Oldenburg. Miniature Soft Drum Set, 1969. Edition of 200.]

It’s rare that I would describe a drum set as “huggable.” (Though of course there is no hugging of the artwork allowed at the gallery.)  It is also a strong contrast, with its soft edges, to the geometric and minimal works in the exhibition.

A few pieces pushed the idea of the multiple into everyday objects. Jim Hodges’ Everything and Nothing is a series of clocks representing the planets of the solar system. On one level, this is simply a set of themed clocks that one could imagine buying at a store (I like how Jupiter is a digital clock). But it is not truly mass-produced, as there are only 12 sets.

[Jim Hodges. Everything and Nothing, 1999.  Edition of 12.]

Vito Acconci’s Park Up a Building is a puzzle of an architectural photograph. Roy Lichtenstein’s Shirt is, well, a shirt (though I could see it being nice to wear for a music performance.)

The exhibition will remain on display through March 12.

Coincident with this exhibition, the gallery was displaying photography from past exhibitions. I particularly liked Catherine Wagner’s Ode to Yves with its array of deep blue lightbulbs – it was part of a 2007 exhibition entitled A Narrative History of the Lighbulb.

[Catherine Wagner. Ode to Yves, 2006.]

Another piece that got my attention was Alec Soth’s Grand Twin Cinema, Paris, Texas, 2006 from an exhibition entitled The Last Days of W.

[Alec Soth.  Grand Twin Cinema, Paris, Texas, 2006.]

The photograph of a classic downtown street seems rather empty (though the business seem open), a little worn out, perhaps illustrative of the state of the country during the last year of George W Bush’s presidency. But the stark quality is also what makes it attractive as an image.

[All images in this article courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery.]

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