William Anastasi explores the elementary constituents of art--the viewing space, the viewer, pictorial space and its framing, time, chance, decision, etc.--and thereby plays with artistic cognition in its various forms. This retrospective (and a concurrent exhibition with Dove Bradshaw and John Cage at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark) shows his work, with its tenacious ambition to shed all metaphysical pretension, to involve a constant approximation to the real. The wall removal pieces from 1966, for example, where a section of the coating of the wall in the exhibition space is removed ("height and depth variable"), represent a space-clearing gesture that still comes across with a justified longing.
For Anastasi, the medium propagates the medium, as Bent Fausing states in his catalogue text. But ultimately, the question is to what degree art propagates art. Even if some of the work is nearly forty years old, you are still provoked by its weightlessness. Is this the product of old-fashioned aestheticism ("Beauty can be found in anything"), or of a vulnerability that creates an open basis for value judgment, by way of a literalism meant to install no power relationships between things? It seems that the relentlessly analytical, almost Cartesian spirit in which Anastasi has undertaken to explore art and its various aspects has led him to break with conventional definitions of aesthetics while at the same time enriching art with new formal possibilities. His work balances contradictions: erasing aesthetic boundaries while being uncompromising with the form of the specific work; approaching dematerialization while confronting materiality head-on; aligning self-sameness and alchemic transformation; and focusin g on the reality of the present moment while grasping the timeless.
Fausing claims that the works incorporating the word "Jew," which Anastasi began making in the early '80s, introduced an entirely new dimension to his art, namely a political-cultural content added to what had previously been purely self-referential. …