Whitehot Magazine

March 2008, Lawrence Weiner and Florian Pumhosl @ Lisson Gallery

Florian Pumhosl, Plakat (#2) and Plakat (#1), courtesy Lisson Gallery, London UK

Lawrence Weiner and Florian Pumhosl at Lisson Gallery
6 February - 15 March 2008

Forty years on and Lawrence Weiner's 1968 Statement of Intent is still the definitive mantra for any maker, or rather presenter, of conceptual art. While a long overdue retrospective tours the US, the latest of Weiner's work is at the Lisson Gallery this spring. The show is a self-contained project showing him at his most playful and dextrous, expertly negotiating the relationship between art, space and language. The text sculptures are bold and dynamic, lines of his trademark coloured font tip up against each other and run around the walls like banners. Rugby may be an unlikely theme for a conceptual art project but the notion of 'Offsides' is what preoccupies Weiner here. The word itself is painted on the wall in the Lisson courtyard, the gallery's own Offside, and many of the Weinerisms refer to this negative space, somewhere just outside a boundary. This is a fitting subject for an artist who is himself the original boundary-breaker turned rule-maker.

Installation view, Florian Pumhosl, Relief (2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), courtesy Lisson Gallery, London UK

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition are Weiner's paper and colour-pencil drawings illustrating the mechanics of a Rugby game. They resemble something between a physics diagram and a constructivist design, with arrows, circles and intersecting triangles delineating the complex dynamics of Rugby. Weiner explains them as a way of 'demystifying' the concept. Whether you can make sense of them or not, they are a fascinating insight into his thought process.

 Florian Pumhosl, Seite (Rot), courtesy Lisson Gallery, London UK

The Florian Pumhosl exhibition at Lisson's second premises hasn't the loudness of the Weiner show but is none the lesser for it. Lawrence Weiner is an intimidating counterpart for a younger and less well known artist but Lisson have done well in placing them side by side, it is a clever balance. Where Weiner is verbal, Pumhosl is quiet, where Weiner's work imposes and dominates a room, Pumhosl's is encased, protected and inverted. Weiner replaces objects with text, and Pumhosl has done the opposite by removing language. His action is one of reduction rather than expression. The film playing in the downstairs gallery shows a beautiful and slow-moving stream of shapes taken from a Japanese Kimono pattern book. The text has been removed and the forms abstracted from their context and so brought back to their essence. The end result are works which are pre-verbal, pre-contextual, pre-cultural. In the words of Julianne Rebentisch, Pumhosl's work demonstrates, less the act of translation between the cultures than culture itself as translation.

Installation view, Lawrence Weiner, A BIT BEYOND WHAT IS DESIGNATED AS THE PALE, courtesy Lisson Gallery, London UK

 The glass paintings in the exhibition do the same. It is as if the individual shapes of a design have floated away from each other, and each has been captured by Pumhosl and preserved in glass. Strangely this is Pumhosl's work almost meets Weiner's - the shapes, taken from avant-garde designs, look like the circles, intersecting triangles and sticks of Weiner's Rugby diagrams. Both, as means to their different ends, use the 2-dimensional aesthetic of simple shapes and forms.

 Installation view, Lawrence Weiner, OFFSIDES, courtesy Lisson Gallery,
 London UK

Installation view, Lawrence Weiner, THAT WHICH IS..., courtesy Lisson Gallery, London UK

 The original designs, in book covers by Japanese designer Onchi Koshiro, are presented in glass cases in the upstairs gallery. Beautiful artefacts in themselves, they also raise questions about the use of another artist's work. By including the books in his exhibition, Pumhosl is acknowledging their role as the starting point for his own - like a theory of intertextuality which understands every artwork as an extension of previous ones. The presence of the books also shows Pumhosl's shapes firmly inside their context, next to those which have been freed from it.

 Seeing two artists' work side by side can give a sharper experience of both. Lisson have managed this brilliantly with Lawrence Weiner and Florian Pumhosl, it is an inspired pairing. The contrasts between the two exhibitions highlight the different character of each.

Laura Fellowes

Laura Fellowes is a writer in London.

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