Pearls and Pigs is a low-lying, planar copper sculpture produced by Lawrence Weiner and Beyer. An edition of nine and measuring roughly 1.5 by 3 feet and ¼ inch thick, the project conjoins Weiner’s enduring interest in exploring the potential of language as medium with the production of metal sculpture, a material rarely utilized in the artist’s practice. Weiner’s works often submit a linguistic proposition to the viewer who, based on context and individual perspective, is invited to engage in an act of personal interpretation. Pearls and Pigs is no exception: the work provokes reflection on both the numerous connotations available within everyday language and the conditions of sculpture.
The phrase “pearls and pigs” calls to mind the old adage, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, a comment on the difficulty of rendering something fine from pedestrian materials. This idea is challenged in Pearls and Pigs as “lo and behold,” the two are humorously brought together into the realm of fine art and set in service of both the conceptual and formal design objectives of the project. Additionally, the work plays with the conventions of sculptural form: the copper slab construction exploits the condition of flatness and the stencil-style lettering suggests a two-dimensional context. While one can locate a formal correspondence between the slab of copper and conventional two-dimensional supports such as a stretched canvas, Weiner provides no intrinsic means of attaching the work to a wall, preferring that it stand on the floor and lean back against a wall for balance. When it is positioned as such, the negative space created by the cutaway text and design elements serve to heighten the work’s sculptural relationship to space.
Pearls and Pigs is scaled for display in a domestic space. The sculpture is constructed of a single sheet of copper, resulting in a work free of seams and weld marks. The height and width of the project, 18 and 36 inches, respectively, were determined with consideration to the outer size limits of the water jet machinery used to create the text and design elements. The use of a water jet to modify the copper slab resulted in an exceptionally precise line. Weiner’s decision to use copper represents a less obvious choice both for the artist and for contemporary metal sculpture, more often fabricated in bronze, aluminum, or steel. And the artist was clear that the copper used for the production of the project be verifiably free-market to avoid contributing to exploitative labor practices. The selection of this rather unorthodox medium results in the realization of a distinctive work in which the color and material properties of the metal make as strong a statement as the text and design and imbue the work with a unique and elegant presentation.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942, Bronx, NY) is one of the principal artists associated with the development of Conceptual Art in the mid-1960's, a movement that called into question conventional definitions of the work of art. He is widely recognized for producing open-ended work in a variety of media, including the use of text in various languages. Since his first solo show in 1960, Weiner has gone on to be the subject of numerous exhibitions and scholarly investigations both in the United States and internationally. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, the Arthur Kopcke Prize, and the Singer Prize, among others. The artist currently lives in New York City and Amsterdam.