Robert Barry, ‘SOMETHING IN A BOX’, 2014, mfc - michèle didier

Robert Barry is one of the four artists who are considered by art history as the founders of conceptual art: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner. Critic Gabriel Guerci even uses the acronym BHKW to name the four artists together, the same as with the Paris-based art group BMPT. More than the singularity of their works, it's perhaps the way they display them that distinguishes them from other artists of their time, for example through the catalog-exhibitions held by Seth Siegelaub such as the January Show in 1969: the dematerialisation of the exhibition, and thus of art, is one of these artists' main concerns.

Robert Barry's ambition to discard the object of art in order to concentrate on the idea is particularly strong. His interest for questions of perception bring him to the renouncement of visuality. He adopts a radical position, developing invisible works, in series such as Inert Gas in 1969, or conceiving mental works, which are based on thoughts, such as the series of Psychic: All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking: 1:36 pm; June 15, 1969.

Hence, Robert Barry exclusively uses language to render his psychic works public. — All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking — This is one of the most famous Statements made by Robert Barry on June 15, 1969 at 1:36 pm. This work only exists thanks to its formulation, its time frame is even recorded in the formulation itself to testify to its existence; later, the statement would be displayed on the gallery walls and materialized with vinyl letters. The exhibition Live in your Head: When Attitudes Become Forms, quickly turned out to be decisive, revealing the main questioning of contemporary art.

SOMETHING IN A BOX gives the opportunity to replay on another scale — 10,2 x 15,2 cm — the measurements of the card — here 62 — that were distributed about fourty years ago. We are confronted with a box made of walnut wood, containing 62 index cards. Each card of SOMETHING IN A BOX proposes a different statement by Robert Barry — 62 Statements. The first one introduces the 61 following: SOMETHING THAT ... and then 61 statements that are supposed to define SOMETHING, the essence of which remains irrevocably unknown. Reading this new text by Robert Barry won't change that.

For the presentation of SOMETHING IN A BOX at mfc-michèle didier gallery, the 62 index cards will be presented out of their box, forming a wall frieze. This display calls to mind Barry's first studio in New York, which had been previously used by a religious group, that had left behind biblical quotes painted on the wall. Displayed this way, the artist's statements will be illegible. Present, but nonetheless invisible. Something in a box will remain something on the walls... Nothing more nothing less.

Signature: Signed copies

Image rights: ©2014 Robert Barry and mfc-michèle didier

Produced and published in 2014 by mfc-michèle didier

About Robert Barry

Since the 1960s Robert Barry has been creating conceptual artworks in a variety of forms. Transcending the physical limitations of space and material, he has employed radio waves as medium, and performance, installation, and attempted telepathy as technique, challenging what would be accepted as “typical” artistic practice or experience. For his “word list” installations, Barry imprints capitalized words directly on walls or surfaces to evoke narrative and inspire contemplation. Barry encourages free association of meaning to his work. In 2007, an installation entitled “Art and War” included large words such as DOUBT, WITHOUT, and DESPERATE placed at random angles on the walls of a residential space. The title of the piece references Sun Tzu's famous Taoist text, The Art of War, the chosen words a reflection on language, time, and human nature.

American, b. 1936, Bronx, New York