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Robert Barry

'Words and Music'

21 Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow G3 6DF

4 September - 6 November 2010

This exhibition comprised a new installation conceived specially for The Common Guild by one of the most influential American artists associated with the emergence of Conceptual Art in the late 1960 and early 1970s. Robert Barry was a pioneer of conceptual art, abandoning painting in 1967 to produce site-specific installations, many of which were almost invisible to the viewer. These installations and actions relied on language to indicate their existence, shifting the presentation and reception of the work from image to text.

Since the early 1970s 'language', or perhaps more correctly, 'words', have been central to Barry’s practice, which has since included typewriter drawings, wall pieces, slide projections and films as well as often cited ‘actions’ such as gas releases and telepathic pieces. Barry is now perhaps best known for his large-scale text installations known as ‘word spaces’, which cast a selection of words in a given space from an ongoing and ever-changing collection. Applied directly to the walls, windows and floors of the gallery, the words surround the viewer, reasserting the importance of the viewer at the heart of the art experience. As Barry explains, “Instead of trying to use text to convey an idea or meaning, I became interested in the individual power of the word to convey emotions or feelings.”

Although utterly conceptual in origin, Robert Barry’s work is essentially experiential. This rare opportunity to see his work brought the physical space between the words, the gallery and the viewer into focus.

Photography by Ruth Clark