Review: Lawrence Weiner’s work at Regen Projects: It’s all spelled out

"Made to Be" by Lawrence Weiner at Regen Projects in Los Angeles.

“Made to Be” by Lawrence Weiner at Regen Projects in Los Angeles.

(Brian Forrest / Regen Projects)

Lawrence Weiner, now in his 70s, is a stalwart of language-driven art, a conceptual sculptor of thought. In his characteristically spare, potent new works at Regen Projects, brief phrases appear in vinyl block letters on the walls and floor.

The words live out a range of dynamic functions. They describe and propose. They present themselves as visual images and as poetic building blocks. They charge the architectural space. They hold equally taut the attention of mind and body.

Consider the title of the show: “Made to Be.” On its own, the phrase delivers an existential tautology that pretty much sums up the nature and purpose of art. Here, it also reads as the first of three phrases (each spelled out across its own wall) that form a devious loop: “Made to be / as thick as can be / spread as thin as can be.”

For another long phrase arced across the gallery floor, Weiner frames each word in an aqua rectangle, the rectangles linked in an angular chain, the overlapping spaces spiked with lipstick red. The words scatter and they speak of scatter, of sand and stone underfoot. They invoke an ordinary sensory impression with the urgency and graphic punch of a Russian Constructivist poster.


Drawings in pencil, pen and paint hanging in a side gallery are looser, more playful verbally and formally. Words appear on the page as if in motion -- which, Weiner makes exhilaratingly clear, they truly are, perception-altering forces that tunnel and spiral, propelling forward and doubling back.

Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 276-5424, through May 7. Closed Sunday and Monday.