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Robert Barry

Different Times Different Works

17.03 - 05.05.2012

The fourth solo show by Robert Barry (b. 1936 in New York) at Galleria Massimo Minini encompasses various types of work that the artist has experimented over his long artistic career. As the title suggests, it includes pieces both old and new, of different dimensions and in different mediums, all pursuing a line of exploration that the artist undertook in the Sixties.

After starting out with paintings that explored the relationship between full and empty space, between the absence and presence of form, in keeping with the minimalist trends of the period, Barry continued his experimentation by taking art to the limits of intangibility. He moved from making works on canvas to delimiting portions of outdoor space with nylon thread, closing galleries during his exhibitions so that it was up to the viewer to imagine the shape and significance of the pieces inside, and creating works that used gas, radioactive materials, and sound frequencies inaudible to the human ear. This was also the period of his Telepathic Piece (1969), a purely mental work in which the artist tried to transmit thoughts that could not be translated into images or words.

In the early Seventies he began experimenting with language as a tool for analysing the structure of art, selecting words and fragments of text that would constantly push the boundaries of the work’s meaning. Freed of their syntactical context, the words always have an open-ended sense; they themselves are not art, but they evoke broader, general contexts rather than referring to one specific object.

In the first room of the gallery, the exhibition Different Times Different Works presents a Word List and several works on canvas, incorporating painted words, which seem to combine the artist’s painterly origins with his later research into language. The glass and mirror pieces in the second room are an evolution of his work that demonstrate a constant exploration and openness to new materials, while several precious Statements from the Seventies shift attention from the art object to the concept, questioning the nature of art through a series of statements or negations that never specify its meaning. In the fourth room, Floorpiece Cobalt Blue is an analysis of language in relation to space, as is Window Piece, on the windows of the upstairs offices. As if Barry’s intention was to bring art out of the context of the gallery, out of space, out of time.