artist / participant

press release

Born in Kansas City (Missouri) in 1931, Robert Morris is unanimously considered one of the most important artists on the international scene. In his art, which, similarly to his extensive written work, has made a substantial contribution towards defining minimalist, conceptual art, the artist uses every medium: sculpture, drawing and painting, but also film, video, performance, installations and ambient constructions (earthworks or land art). This broad-based show that inaugurates at the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art in Prato today, is the first ever historical manifestation of more than forty years of the unbroken artistic experimentation to appear in Italy.

Furthermore, the event also pays tribute to the special relationship that Morris has had with our region for over twenty years. Suffice it to consider Labirinto in the Gori collection at the Fattoria di Celle at Santomato, Pistoia, the works in Prato cathedral, the Grandarco work created for the new pavilion of the hospital in Pistoia, up to The birthday boy on show in the Accademia gallery in Florence (Forme per il David) and the latest project, Prato Roundabout, a large fountain based on the Capitol Square in Rome by Michelangelo, and made possible thanks to a contribution by the Prato Savings Bank Foundation, to be placed in the gardens facing the law courts. The Prato exhibition begins with a series of earlier works such as Box with the Sound of Its Own Making (1961), Card File (1962) and Self-Portrait (EEG) (1963) in which Morris finds a new way of interpreting Duchampian aesthetics and opens new paths to exploring conceptual art, and Mirrored Cubes (1965), one of minimalist art's pivotal works which, within itself, lays the bases for progressing beyond itself. With Mirror Film (1969) we see the transition that marked the artist's interest in images in movement and landscapes. Then, the three large-scale installations with mirrors that show how innovatively Morris's work up to then was handling space: Threadwaste (1968), Portland Mirrors (1977) and American Beauties & Noam's Vertigo (2002), in which cinema and projection again appear.

As a counterpoint and at the same time fil rouge and real heart of the exhibition there are eighty-one drawings from the Blind Time series. These are divided into six groups. The selection of Blind Time Drawings presented in Prato, from the first group from 1973 up to the sixth from 2000 (Moral Blinds) as well as other drawings which are not from any series, is the biggest that has ever been put on show. They were done by the artist (or, in the case of Serie II by a woman who was blind from birth) in a single session with eyes shut and bare-handed, following a very exacting set of rules in which language and memory played a determining role. The rules were drawn up beforehand and written at the bottom of the paper where Morris also notes the time set for the drawing to be done, and the difference between this and the actual length, which was duly timed.

For example: "With eyes shut, hands coated in graphite and an estimated time of 3 minutes, both hands sought to come down the page following identical paths attempting to keep to a exactly vertical column of dabs. Estimated time of error: +8 seconds." Especially worthy of note is the 4th series of the Blind Time Drawings from 1991, subtitled Drawing with Davidson. Here, Morris introduces interaction between the images and the words by philosopher Donald Davidson (1917-2003), one of the outstanding figures of contemporary American philosophy, who emerges - through citations generally taken from his books Essays on Action and Events (1980) and Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (1984) - as a person with whom one can talk but also the originator of the perspective of thought that these drawings aspire towards. The Blind Time Drawings are outstanding in their variety and extraordinary inventiveness, and illustrate all the issues that have inspired Morris's work since its very beginnings: the perception, as well as the body that perceives, the artist as a subject and the relationship he or she establishes with inanimate objects while creating art, and lastly art itself as an activity of the mind parallel to philosophy.

As the curator of the exhibition points out in his critique: "... the Blind Time Drawings achieve the status of a sort of monument - fragmentary, disrupted and unique - within recent art besides being a privileged way of gaining access to the thoughts of an artist whose work, reflecting the various labyrinths that inspired it, develops round successive curves, zigzags and other paradoxical propositions."

For the occasion, the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art together with Steidl is co-publishing a book entitled Robert Morris Blind Time Drawings, the most important and exhaustive publication on these extraordinary works, with texts by Robert Morris, Donald Davidson and Jean-Pierre Criqui. The book is presently being printed.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Municipality of Prato, The Prato Savings Bank, the Pecci family, the Prato Savings Bank Foundation, is curated by Jean-Pierre Criqui, art historian and critic, advisor to the Délégation aux arts plastiques of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and editor-in-chief since 1994 of Les Cahiers du Musée national d'art moderne the magazine published by the Pompidou Centre. Author of many works on the art of the second half of the twentieth century, he has also published Un trou dans la vie (2002) and Essais sur l'art depuis 1960 (Desclée de Brouwer, Parigi). He is a regular contributor to the American magazine Artforum. In 1995 he curated the Double Mixte: Barry X Ball, Lynne Cohen, Pascal Convert, Rachel Whiteread, exhibition at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris and, in 2003 together with Alfred Pacquement, the Jean-Marc Bustamante exhibition at the French Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennial.


only in german

Robert Morris
Kurator: Jean-Pierre Criqui