Robert Morris

Untitled (3 Ls)
1965 refabricated 1970

Not on view

Robert Morris’s deceptively simple sculpture Untitled (L-Beams) presents us with a subtle perceptual puzzle. Although its three elements are identical in shape, they appear different from one another based on their varying orientations. This allows us to view the same form simultaneously from multiple perspectives, so that the act of seeing becomes an implicit subject of Morris’s work. This effect is heightened as we move around the sculpture, becoming aware of how our response to it is affected by our bodily position. Morris was one of the founding figures of Minimalism in the 1960s, a movement that became known for its stark forms and industrial materials, as well as its rejection of traditional artistic techniques such as modeling and casting. The repeated elements of Morris’s sculpture invoke the processes of commercial manufacture, like so many products from an assembly line. Yet the artist has indicated that the three units may be configured differently for each space in which they are presented, thereby introducing an element of play that counteracts the work’s otherwise inert and imposing forms.

Artist
Robert Morris

Title
Untitled (3 Ls)

Date
1965 refabricated 1970

Classification
Sculpture

Medium
Stainless steel

Dimensions
Dimensions variable

Edition information
Edition of 3

Accession number
76.29a-c

Credit line
Gift of Howard and Jean Lipman

Rights and reproductions information
© artist or artist’s estate


Audio

  • America Is Hard to See

    Robert Morris, Untitled (3 Ls), 1965

    Robert Morris, Untitled (3 Ls), 1965

    0:00

    Narrator: This 1965 work by Robert Morris consists of three L-beams. They're bigger than we are, but their scale is easy to relate to our bodies: their sides are eight-feet long, about the height of a door. They sit directly on the floor.

    Annette Michelson is Professor Emerita of Cinema at New York University. She was one of Morris’s earliest advocates.

    Annette Michelson: Traditionally it was felt that the space inhabited by a sculpture was other, totally other. It created its own space as it were. But with this kind of composition, the spectator became aware that he and this very simple form inhabited the same space.

    Narrator: Exploring this shared space means moving around the work, gauging the three elements in relation to your body.

    Annette Michelson: The idea actually of placing these three totally similar objects at different angles is to constitute three very, very different forms, to which the spectator can respond and, indeed, will respond differently.

    Narrator: One unit lies on its side, having entirely given in to gravity. Another rests on two edges, arching more energetically into the air. The third stands erect, assuming an almost assertive posture. Rationally, we know the L-beams are identical—but we experience them as being different. Morris deliberately foregrounds this disparity between abstract knowledge and lived experience. As a result, this visually simple work is a complex philosophical exploration of the way we know the world.



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