Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I’m not hiding, I’m in Barcelona, where the weather is blissfully temperate, even cool, and since seeing the Àngels Ribé retrospective (1969-84) at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), I have been thinking about the current state of conceptual art. What struck me most about the Ribé show was how consciously visual the work is, offering a kind of formal satisfaction that’s lacking in similar work today. But that shouldn’t be surprising when you remember that the pioneers of conceptual art such as Ribé and her contemporaries like Vito Acconci, Hannah Wilke, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Robert Morris were extending the visual art tradition into the conceptual, whereas today the whole idea of conceptual art is so taken for granted that it becomes its own starting place, often more sociological, political and anthropological than, well, there’s no other word for it—artistic.

Ribé’s work is also varied—photographs, video, sculpture, installation—and very much about not “the body,” but specifically her body, how it—and she—relates to space and the world. There is a kind of innocence, purity and lack of self-consciousness about work that isn’t trying to prove or illustrate anything, and that clearly wasn’t made for commercial consumption. And how long has it been since we’ve seen art that was personal without being confessional?

Laberint (Labyrinth), 1969, is made of curtains of PVC, in a color and idea that eerily anticipates Olafur Eliasson.

Ribé and Fred Sandback were working with some of the same concepts at the same time. Here, in 3 points 1, 1970, there is just one line of string, while the other sides of the triangle are formed by its shadow.

From the video Triangle, 1978.

From the video, Amagueu les nines qui passen els lladrés, 1977.

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