Bernar Venet

Bernar Venet

Two Indeterminate Lines, 1993

Rolled steel


87 in. x 87 in. x 98.5 in. (220.98 cm x 220.98 cm x 250.19 cm)

Gift of Elliot K. Wolk, MIT Class of 1957

Following an intensive period of work with conceptual art, Bernar Venet halted his art production in the mid-1970s while he lectured and taught and contemplated his theories of art. When he recommenced sculpting, he created works based on mathematics and geometrical angles and arcs. From these series, possibly as a reaction to Minimalism and as a conversation with his own earlier work, he began a series based on randomly created lines.

Two Indeterminate Lines, 1993, recalls Dadaist games of chance in the directionless dynamism of the contorted bars. The sleek, curved forms conjure up images of Surrealist automatic writings and drawings, of intuitive rather than rational thought. As with other sculptures in Venet’s Indeterminate Lines series, this work was improvised first in uncharted scribbles or doodle-like sketches on the artist’s studio floor.

Building Number: E62

Accession Number: 2004.010

Audio Transcript

My name is Berner Venet.

Born in France, Venet moved to New York in the late '60s, where he began creating conceptual pieces based on mathematical systems.

I was part of those pioneers, let's say, using mathematical equation, things that nobody can understand but were interesting theoretically, let's say. I never studied mathematics. I'm not a mathematician.

Much of Venet's earlier work was determined by specific equations and geometric angles. By contrast, this 1993 work, Two Indeterminate Lines, explored his interest in how a line's mathematical position can be placed in dialogue with uncertainty through its physical realization. Venet made this work at a factory, letting the physical properties of the steel guide him to his final design.

I will take a bar of steel, which is about 24 feet long. I bend the steel. I try to adapt a shape to something that could fit with something else. It's pure improvisation. Until the last minute, I don't know how it's going to look like. It takes many, many, many hours and days to make those sculptures. It still doesn't do what you want to do. How do you bend this solid steel cold, with overhead crane, and you send them in the direction that you want? It's very hard.