Museum of Modern Art Acquisition

The Museum of Modern Art acquires major work by Dale Henry, as part of a 3-year giveaway project by Clocktower’s Alanna Heiss

(December 27th, 2016 – New York, NY) The Museum of Modern Art has acquired Primer Sets, a 1972 serial work by post- minimalist painter Dale Henry, who bequeathed his entire body of work to Clocktower Founder & Director Alanna Heiss. The day of his death in September 2011, Henry wrote a letter giving all of his work and papers to Clocktower Heiss, with the proviso that the work remain outside of any commercial activity.

Dale Henry,  Primer Sets , Clocktower Gallery installation view, 2013

Dale Henry, Primer Sets, Clocktower Gallery installation view, 2013

Full title: Primer Sets of a Revealing Graphic and Personalized History of Western Painting using the Basic (and Complete) Iambus Throughout. Eighty Pieces in Eight Sets: Marster Buckt Tho Nitid / Makar Vanisht / Oyez Fúnnee

Primer Sets is one of Henry’s most visually imposing works, and considered by him as the key to understanding his oeuvre. The piece begins Henry’s project of collapsing the linear history of Western art and practices of perception into a flat medium. It is often described by the artist as the key to understanding his artistic project, a visual dictionary of his conceptual and material concerns. Just as poetry plays with structures of meaning in language, here Henry employs its form to disrupt and reveal ways of seeing art. The Iamb, a poetic foot comprised of first an unstressed ( ̆) and then a stressed (/) syllable, is invoked in the title of the piece. Read from left to right, the iamb emerges in the subtle, rhythmic play of visual qualities –light and dark, straight and curved, recessed and protruding, textured and smooth, finished and unfinished– on a grand scale.

In keeping with Henry’s wishes, Heiss has given the most significant groups of works as gifts to other museums and collections in the US and abroad, including the the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum, the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, and the Sammlung-Hoffmann Collection in Berlin. The goal is to bring forth seminal conceptual and post-minimalist works by an artist whose relative anonymity betrays the relevance of his work.

The remaining 150 works are being given away to artists, friends, and peers. Works will be directed to Clocktower’s family of artists, ranging from 1970’s pioneers to the youngest participants in Clocktower’s most ambitious new projects; to the artist advisors, scholars, researchers, and installers who made the Dale Henry exhibitions come to fruition; to the friends and contemporaries of Henry’s whose artistic role in that period gave the project conceptual foundations; to partner institutions who enabled the continuation of Clocktower operations after the 2013 relocation.

Dale Henry, Primer Sets, Clocktower Gallery installation - 2
Dale Henry, Primer Sets, Clocktower Gallery installation - 3