Lawrence Weiner, AN ABROGATION OF THE INHERENT DESTINY OF ANY OBJECT AT HAND, 1998, language and the materials referred to, dimensions variable, installation view. CATHY CARVER/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY

Lawrence Weiner, AN ABROGATION OF THE INHERENT DESTINY OF ANY OBJECT AT HAND, 1998, language and the materials referred to, dimensions variable, installation view.

CATHY CARVER/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY

Lawrence Weiner deploys words he conceives, following traditional linguistics, as floating signifiers—found objects disconnected from any object, cluttering everyday reality. The graphic marks he paints on walls and floors may say something—AN ABROGATION OF THE INHERENT DESTINY OF ANY OBJECT AT HAND (1998), for example—but whether they actually mean something is open to speculation. We may wonder what the “inherent destiny of any object” at hand might be, above and beyond decay and dissolution, but the “abrogation (or abolition or cancellation) of inherent destiny” implies the removal of “the object at hand” from the flux of time or contingency. It is only possible through the translation of the word-object into a work of art, whose alternate language is Wiener’s dazzling deployment of color.

Lawrence Weiner, THE SECOND ONE AFTER & DIRECTLY IN FRONT IN FRONT OF THE SUN AT THE LEFT OF THE LAST + A RISE IN THE ROAD + A STONE IN THE ROAD BEHIND THE SUN & STRAIGHT ON (detail), 1998, language and the materials referred to, dimensions variable, installation view. CATHY CARVER/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY

Lawrence Weiner, THE SECOND ONE AFTER & DIRECTLY IN FRONT IN FRONT OF THE SUN AT THE LEFT OF THE LAST + A RISE IN THE ROAD + A STONE IN THE ROAD BEHIND THE SUN & STRAIGHT ON (detail), 1998, language and the materials referred to, dimensions variable, installation view.

CATHY CARVER/COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY

By removing words from any narrative context, by denuding them of contingency, Weiner transforms them into things, raw material he may deploy any which way. INHERENT INNATE TENSION (2015) occupies two surfaces, the floor and south wall of the gallery’s north viewing room. “Inherent” and “innate” are placed one above the other, as they would be in the acting-out of a speech act: the mind must choose between the two related concepts and pick the one it thinks most efficacious. Which is it? Or is that obligation actually to choose the source of the tension?

AFTER HERE & THERE (2014) juxtaposes temporality (“after”) with location (“here or there”) so, in itself, it means very little. But extrapolation by means of context—the other works in the show—suggest that after the words are decontextualized they lose both temporality and geographic site: they now stand in the world of art, a place that exists in a tangential relationship to human reality.

Weiner provides directions for reaching that place: THE SECOND ONE AFTER & DIRECTLY IN FRONT IN FRONT OF THE SUN AT THE LEFT OF THE LAST + A RISE IN THE ROAD + A STONE IN THE ROAD BEHIND THE SUN & STRAIGHT ON (1998). Nothing to it, as long as we can hang on the coattails of Weiner in this superb exhibit of work from the 1980s, 1990s, and the current century.