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07 Jul 2020

Robert Morris at Musée d'art moderne et contemporain Saint-Étienne

Robert Morris, Untitled (Mirrored Cubes), 1965/1971, mirror and wood, each cube: 91,4 x 91,4 x 91,4 cm, collection Tate, Londres
© Adagp, Paris 2020

Robert Morris / The Perceiving Body
Musée d'art moderne et contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole, France


Until November 1st 2020 Unique in France this Summer

Lucas Martinet
+33 (0)4 77 91 60 40

Musée d'art moderne et contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole
Rue Fernand Leger
42270 - Saint-Priest-En-Jarez

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This summer 2020, the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain of Saint-Étienne Métropole present an exceptionnal exhbition dedicated to the early work of Robert Morris, a prominent figure in the history of contemporary art disappeared in 2018.

As opposed to the model of the survey, in which many examples of work are brought together to demonstrate variety or range, Robert Morris. The Perceiving Body is organised as a constellation of seven discrete rooms, each containing a single installation or a group of related objects.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Morris produced what are now considered to be canonical works of Minimal and Postminimal art. The works were primarily concerned with acts of making and beholding. They were made by Morris (and, later, by others) from materials and means drawn largely from the construction industry. In form, these objects eschew the compositional conventions of modernist abstraction, being based instead on principles of repetition, permutation, and chance. In scale, they observe a direct, 1:1 relation between the sculptural object and the body of the artist or observer – the 'perceiving body.' This emphasis on an encounter – between the subject and object – has its roots in advanced art circles of performance and dance with which Robert Morris has worked closely. Placed directly on the floor, the objects are non-monumental yet big enough to fully engage the space of the room: they confront, obstruct, or intervene.

The exhibition includes celebrated examples of the artist's work, such as Untitled (3Ls) (1965/1970) and Untitled (Mirrored Cubes) (1965/1971), and various early 'large-form' constructions in plywood, fiberglass, and steel mesh that hold, transmit, or reflect light. Also shown are process-based works using soft felt, and a related work, Untitled (Scatter Piece) (1968-1969/2009), a complex installation partly devised according to chance operations derived from John Cage. A film on the theme of the mirror, where the artist works with his own body, is also included. Finally, Untitled (Portland Mirrors) (1977) is a large installation with mirrors — an expansive illusion of multiple spaces that both summons and defeats the principle of one-point perspective.

The works produced by Morris in the 1970s saw the emergence of new factors and themes, such as disorientation, blindness, and illusion. According to the artist's writings, these elements reflect an emphasis on intensive interiority, a search for the self. Much later, Morris suggested that his early work possessed undisclosed, even allegorical, references to his childhood – to indelible memories of encounters with looming objects and hidden rooms. In this way, the work was said to engage space as affective or symbolic form.

Coproduced with the Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, this exhibition is of a special importance. Conceived by the American independent curator Jeffrey Weiss in close collaboration with Robert Morris himself before his death in December 2018, it is the very first exhibition looking back on his historic production ever since. Bringing an opportunity to gather a group of major works rarely seen in France from international collections. Elected as an 'Exhibition of national interest', it received exceptional financial support from the French State, and was possible thanks to the Terra Foundation for American Art support.

Having this exhibition in Saint-Étienne prolonges Robert Morris' special relationship with the MAMC+. The museum devoted an exhibition to Morris in 1974 and has ever since constituted a consistent and abundant body of Minimal and Postminimal works, forming one of the richest collections in France.

Jeffrey Weiss
Guest Curator

Alexandre Quoi
Associate Curator, Chief Curator, MAMC+