Artists have, of course, done many marvellous things with the continuous line. They have taken it places, crawling off the page or squiggling into three dimensions, becoming a physical thing of itself, freed of representational duties. 'Line', a new show at the Lisson Gallery in London, guest curated by Mary Doyle and Kate Macfarlane of the Drawing Room in Bermondsey, has 15 examples of what artists, from Sol LeWitt, Susan Hiller, Richard Long and Julian Opie, have done with it.
The exhibition’s starting point is LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #157, first drawn to his instructions by Nicholas Logsdail – owner and co-founder of the Lisson Gallery – in 1973 and re-drawn here. The earliest piece here is actually Tom Marioni’s One Second Sculpture, a photograph of a coil of metal whipping itself into a straightish line in mid-air. Jonathan Monk also lets his materials do what they will in Fallen, 2006, letting a length of rope, exactly his height, fall to the ground and remaking that exact form in neon tubing as a kind of self-portrait.
Long, famously, took the line outdoors, gently imposing his linear order on the natural world. Long, like Johnny Cash, walks the line. His Four Day Walk, 1980, leaves or records no visible trace on the landscape. It is merely a record of the types of places he saw walking in a 94-mile straight line. British artist K Yoland also takes her line – of crumbled, disobedient paper – outdoors, deep into Texas near Mexico. Her paper, a possible border, refuses to stay still or settle in one place or form. Julia Opie’s Pine Forest, meanwhile, creates dense woodland out of nothing much at all.
Florian Pumhösl’s Tract, 2011, is a 16mm film animation of early dance notation (an inspiration to a number of artists and photographers in recent years). Maximilian Schubert hangs three dimensional linear sculptures on the wall while Athanasios Argianas drapes loops of brass ribbon, each etched with poetic suggestions of what it might be a measure of.
Perhaps the most imposing piece in the show is Susan Hiller’s Work in Progress, from 1980. It is all that is left of a week-long performance piece in which she unraveled a painting on a canvas, before reassembling it into physical doodles.
Berlin-based installation artist Monika Grzymala and Seattle-based Victoria Haven have both created site-specific pieces for the show: Grzymala kicks up a storm of cross-hatched black-then-white tape while Haven creates delicate abstract optical illusions, playing with shadow and perspective.