An influential figure in several of the artistic movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Morris was born in 1931 in Kansas City. He studied at the University of Kansas City, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the California School of Fine Arts. After serving in the Army Corp of Engineers, Morris began his artistic career in experimental dance. With his wife, dancer and choreographer Simone Forti, he worked with the Judson Dance Theater after re-locating to New York in 1959.
In the early 1960s, Morris earned a master’s degree in art history at Hunter College. Around this time, Morris began exhibiting pieces that became important in defining Minimalist sculpture. His early sculptural works, made as props for his dance performances, were box-like structures made of wood. These works were followed by pieces made with industrial materials such as aluminum and steel mesh. During this time, Morris also created several Neo-Dada sculptures inspired by Marcel Duchamp using everyday materials and subjects.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Morris helped to develop the concept of Process Art, in which the emphasis of the artist is upon the process of creation rather than the end result. Other artists who were part of this movement were Lynda Benglis, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Smithson, among others. Very much in the tradition of Duchamp’s famous “retinal art” remark, Morris wrote a seminal essay in 1968 in which he proposed art as an “anti-form” based on process and time rather than as a mere fabrication of an “object-type.” Like Claes Oldenburg, he began using soft materials such as felt to create large sculptures that explored how ordinary materials reacted to gravity and physical stress. To dematerialize his work, he also used ephemeral materials such as dirt, steam, and textile waste. At this time, Morris created monumental earthworks outdoors. His work from the 1980s and thereafter has included encaustic paintings, mirror installations, and works that merge sculpture and two-dimensional images.
Although focused primarily on other media, Morris has created a few books and portfolios of prints. His portfolios of prints include Continuities (1988) and Conundrums (1989), each featuring five etchings. His work with books consists mainly of contributions to collaborative works. These books include the important Conceptual art publication the Xerox Book (1968) and An Anthology of Chance Operations (1963) which featured contributions from many artists who would become associated with the Fluxus group.
Morris is also the author of a number of influential essays on art in addition to “Anti-Form” (1968), including “Some Notes on Dance” (1965), “Notes on Sculpture” (1968), and “Aligned with Nazca” (1975). In 1994, his work was the subject of a travelling retrospective organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Books by Robert Morris available from Boreas Fine Art:
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