I have about fifteen messily written pages of notes from last week's Daniel Buren lecture so I expect this will be the first of at least two posts. If you went to the lecture and have anything you'd like to add to the text below please do so in the comments.
The first work he showed was an outdoor wall mosaic from the early 60's - lots of Matisse shapes in primary colors all made from Venetian glass. Buren was careful to emphasize this mosaic was made of pure colored glass, maybe this colored glass relates to his later use of colored gels. Next we were shown a selection of clean white paintings from the mid-sixties and his progression from these to similar paintings covered with taped stripes. Once he found a material with nice regular stripes (maybe some awning material or something) he started to use that as the canvas and instead of adding stripes to paintings he began adding just a little paint to stripes. He would paint over the stripes on the far left and right of the stretched material with white paint. Voila!
It sounds like he had a lot of early frustration, it was "very difficult to show" and he "realized that to have a studio was really incredibly difficult - instead of fighting or being depressed - I left the idea of a studio and I never get back to work except where I do the work". He showed some photos of two guys in suits walking around outside of what looks like a museum with something like striped sandwich boards attached to their backs and above their heads. The only thing they would say when asked what they were doing was "this is white and green stripes".
Buren started to post his striped paper all over Paris. "Paris was a place where everybody was using the billboard for publicity and political manifestoes, it's not like that today. I covered many places like that just as an activity. No announcement, just anonymous". He "started at night because (I) thought it was safer but then realized that it was much safer during the day. Up to May 1968 the police were very nice, the police said okay no problem. After May '68 it was a little more difficult."
His first solo show (he actually used the term "one man show", but typing that I just realized how obsolete it's become) was with a gallery in Milan for which he completely covered the door of the gallery with his striped paper. To enter the gallery was impossible, the gallery was closed. This was that gallery's last show.
There was shortly after a group show in Bern, Switzerland called "When Attitude Becomes Form" that many of his friends/colleagues were invited to show in and "something I thought I should participate in but I was not invited so I thought I should participate anyway". He traveled to Bern and "I covered everything during the night. At that time in Switzerland everything was framed and very clean - it (his papering of the city) was never seen. I was put in jail. I was showing the philosophy of that exhibition 'the artist is free you can do anything' but if you do something that was not expected you are in trouble. The police took me out of jail and asked me to clean what I did and of course I get in my car and I leave (Switzerland) very very quickly."
- Click Here for PART 2