Featuring a single installation – comprised of 22 meat cleavers in two rows at the top and bottom of the wall – the work was conceived in 1969, and subsequently shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970.
Describing the origins of this work in the catalogue accompanying Le Va’s 2005 retrospective at ICA Philadelphia, Ingrid Schaffner writes: “On one of his trips driving back to Minneapolis from New York in 1969, Le Va picked up a bunch of cleavers. Big, heavy, 3 ½-pound ones, with 9 ½-inch-long blades, that he had obtained, appropriately enough, from a butcher supply store around the meat yards of Chicago. He started by sticking the cleavers into the floor. This made for some pretty vicious-looking distributions, but failed to convey the desired threat of bodily harm. Le Va achieved this with his next move into the realm of figurative reference, by cleaving the blades into the vertical field of the wall.
Le Va approached working on the wall with cleavers the same as working on the floor with felt – with deliberation. Using the cleavers and the marks made by sticking them into and removing them from the wall, he wanted to create enough of a pattern to induce viewers into reconstructing movement, sequence, and method. Where was the artist (attacked) standing? How were the cleavers thrown? In what order? To study their arrangement is to conjure the artist in action, working to the measure of his own body.”