Originally published in the Marina Times San Francisco’s January 2022 edition
Remembering Lawrence Weiner via OUT OF SIGHT at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
Fort Mason, in the fall of 2021, set a goal to position art outside, creating a publicly shared art space. As an accessible resource to the community, the installations include OUT OF SIGHT by the celebrated artist Lawrence Weiner which will be on view through the end of January 2022.
Exploring Art In Unexpected, Everyday Places
Multilingual hopscotch-like medallions or “marelles” (French for hopscotch) can be seen on the sidewalk across the city’s waterfront (Fort Mason entrance and Pier 2) and in the Dogpatch neighborhood. This ground-based work combines wit and whimsy in a game format, encouraging play and interaction along with learning. OUT OF SIGHT references the “gamification” of learning while the viewer interacts with the marelles in English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. “A person coming in with whatever situation they find themselves in, the minute they have any thoughts about themselves going FROM HERE TO THERE, they will be able to stand in front of the marelle and realize they first must imagine themselves doing it, that’s assuming a position,” said the artist, Lawrence Weiner.
Words As Sculpture – The Life of Lawrence Weiner
An American Conceptual artist from the South Bronx, Lawrence Weiner died on December 2, 2021. After traveling throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, Weiner found himself in the Bay area having his first exhibition in 1960 in Mill Valley, California. A National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Weiner was a central figure in the development of conceptual art during the 1960’s. His approach to art was brilliantly original and yet still relatable to the general public. The visual poetry of communication became the medium. Weiner maintained: “Art is the empirical fact of the relationships of objects to objects in relation to human beings and not dependent upon historical precedent for either use or legitimacy.” Creating mostly word-based artworks presented as sculpture, Weiner replaced the traditional 3-dimension object with boundary-expanding ideas presented through language. In this way, the viewer can source meanings and perspectives from their own experience.
This installation has proven to be a highly adaptable sculpture that has merged with different institutions, different spaces, distinct sites, and specific language communities, and has been shown in public spaces including the Chicago Park District; the downtown shopping district of Kortrijk, Belgium; the Pérez Art Museum in Miami; and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.
OUT OF SIGHT But Not Forgotten
OUT OF SIGHT, during its time at Fort Mason, has profoundly distinguished itself from the installations past lives. Art, like language, lives on beyond its creator. Post December 2, we now find ourselves interpreting this installation knowing the artist has recently departed. Will this change the meaning of the hopscotch game when the public “jumps” into this conversation? What thoughts will arise when a visitor hops on a square challenging them to Spit In The Wind, Hope For The Best? Or the square One Can Only Imagine The Powers That Be? The timing of this installation and the power of the messages seem to take on a greater poignancy owing to the recent death of the artist who challenged us to see the world differently via language as sculpture. What was set in motion changes its velocity. The interaction, and the dialogue, continues to evolve. As Lawrence Weiner states in his hopscotch game, Imagined Things Can Be Altered To Suit.
Frank Smigiel, FMCAC’s Director of Arts Programming notes that OUT OF SIGHT “…shows artists continually reimagine where their work can live and what their work can do. In a city with a long history of public art, these artists place Fort Mason at the center of a larger conversation about what art out in the community can spark.”
OUT OF SIGHT is on view at Fort Mason Entrance & Pier 2: September 17, 2021 to January 30, 2022, The Exploratorium: Late September 2021 to January 30, 2022 (Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco) and McEvoy Foundation For The Arts Presentation At Minnesota Street Project Atrium: October 16, 2021 to January 22, 2022 (1275 Minnesota Street, San Francisco) The exhibit is free and open to the public.