Manzoni considered the two-dimensional surface of painting and drawing not as something “to be filled with colors and forms” but as a place “of unlimited possibilities” in which a line could exist “beyond all problems of composition and size,” he wrote. The line in this work is more than half a mile long, but in theory, Manzoni believed, such a line could stretch to infinity. One of many similar drawings by the artist, Linea m 1000 is invisible, contained in a generic canister; in this way the work anticipated the Conceptual art of the 1960s, in which the idea—in this case, line—was more important than the form of the artwork.
Gallery label from On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, November 21, 2010-February 7, 2011.
Line 1000 Meters Long, executed on July 24, 1961, is intended to remain hidden, its length known only by the engraving on its canister. Manzoni made a series of such drawings by attaching rolls of paper to rotating spindles and pressing a bottle of ink to their centers as they were unfurled. At one point he planned to create a set of lines that would equal the circumference of the earth, remarking that each line “will be vacuum–packed in a special stainless–steel case that will be hermetically sealed.” Line 1000 Meters Long was included in Manzoni’s first solo exhibition in North America, held at Sonnabend Gallery in 1972.
Gallery label from Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, December 21, 2013–April 21, 2014.
Manzoni began his career as a painter, but his later work anticipated the Conceptual art of the 1960s. Line 1000 Meters Long reflects both sides of his thought. Regarding a painting not as "a surface to be filled with colors and forms" but as "a surface of unlimited possibilities," he imagined in that "total space" a line going "beyond all problems of composition and size." This was what he produced in his many works on the pattern of _Line 1000 Meters Long—_each a tube or drum containing a roll of paper marked with a single continuous line. The length of the roll varies from work to work, but in theory, Manzoni believed, the line could stretch to infinity.
Despite its relationship to painting, Line 1000 Meters Long is more conceptual than visual. Indeed the line that is its heart eludes the eye, for these canister works are usually shown closed. Art that is invisible raises the act of thinking above the act of seeing, as Manzoni also did when, for example, he signed eggs with his thumbprint and asked a show's visitors to eat them. A line in a can is itself a conceptual conundrum. Playful but acute, Line 1000 Meters Long invites us to question our expectations of the artwork, and our responses to it.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 256.