Darboven was at the forefront of Conceptual art from its beginnings in the late 1960s until her death. Evincing a strict sense of order and an obsessive discipline, her work uses numerical systems to explore time and the documentation of her life—a mode of working she likened to "a way of writing without describing." While living in New York City from 1966 to 1968, Darboven developed her characteristic painstakingly choreographed lines, producing the rhythmic cadence visible in this untitled work made around 1972.
Darboven worked in near-isolation during her time in New York but did befriend the artist Sol LeWitt, whose work shares an intellectual and formal relationship with her own. Both artists created systematic, iterative visual styles, thereby "[freeing] art from both representation and expressive emotion," LeWitt noted. LeWitt was "struck by the originality and depth of [Darboven's] work," which he believed helped free art from representation, emphasizing ideas over aesthetics. Her emphasis on process and duration makes time both the raw material and the subject of her art. Like a journal or a diary, her work reflects her life, but her use of mathematical principles keeps her personal history private.
Gallery label from Sites of Reason: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions, June 11–September 28, 2014.