Lisson Gallery

Daniel Buren 'En Plein Air' on the NYC High Line

16 May 2019

En Plein Air, inspired by the unique site of the High Line, examines and expands the tradition of outdoor painting. The title refers to the mid-19th century practice of en plein air painting (French for “in the open air”). The artists in the exhibition expand well beyond the historical plein air lineage. They not only bring painting outside but imagine nature as context, subject, and collaborator. Eight featured artists approach the history, methodologies, and content of outdoor painting from a variety of perspectives. The High Line is an apt site for the consideration of the importance of landscape painting in our time, as the natural features of the park juxtapose with the artificial scenery of the surrounding billboards, building facades and walls, and variety of advertisements.

Through the participation of an international group of artists, En Plein Air challenges the kinds of work traditionally associated with public art—sculptures and murals—by presenting freestanding, outdoor works that can be viewed in the round and in dialogue with the surrounding landscapes.

Daniel Buren's participation in En Plein Air features hundreds of striped flags organized in 16 sections that crisscross the Western Rail Yards, turning this section of the park into a three-dimensional painting that can be inhabited by the viewers. The work continues a project presented first for documenta VII in 1982. Originally titled Les Guirlandes (“The Garlands,” or tinsel), Buren responded to the arbitrary and absurd organizing principle of the documenta VII exhibition catalogue—the featured artists were listed by date of birth. Buren included a sound component that alternately played a voice reading the names of the colors of the flags in 14 different languages and excerpts of classical musical works arranged in chronological order by the composer’s date of birth. Thirty-five years after the original display, the work evokes a commentary on national flags and the nationalism rising everywhere in the world.

En Plein Air is on view now through March 2020. Daniel Buren's installation can be found at the northern stretch of the High Line between 30th and 34th streets. For more information please visit
Daniel Buren 'En Plein Air' on the NYC High Line
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