Created in 1972-1974, Hanne Darboven's 19+42=61, Arbeit I?/II ? is a work of carefully realised conceptual minimalism. Marking the height of her practice, these exceptional years in the 1970s saw the artist receive critical acclaim for her first and second retrospectives held at the Westfalen Kunstverein Münster in 1971 and the Kunstmuseum Basel in 1974 respectively. In 1972, Darboven also became a celebrated participant in Documenta V, exhibiting at the XII Bienal de São Paulo the following year.
Drawn in ink over 61 sheets of chalk paper, the constituent drawings fill each page with an extraordinary wealth of calligraphy. Penned by Darboven's own hand, each line is meticulously ordered and presented with serial precision. The work refers to the passage of time, 'the process of continuation- a process which takes time to do, which takes time as one of its subjects, and which takes the form of time (the calendar) as its numerical foundation' (L. Lippard, "Deep in Numbers" Artforum 12(2),1973, p. 35).
Assembled into two groups of forty-two and nineteen sheets, each work is enumerated at the top with the corresponding number of squares. In sheet one of Arbeit for example there are forty-two boxes arranged with numbers ranging from two to forty-three. At the bottom of the sheet, arranged in bands of ten is the verbal enumeration in German: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, covering as many lines as required to meet the sum of forty-three. At the centre of each page the numbers 365 and 366 are variously scratched through or asterisked to signify whether completion of the work took place in a normal calendar year or a leap year. In doing so, Darboven elegantly constructs a 'spatial measure of temporal duration' (C. Van Bruggen, "Today Crossed Out," Artforum, 26(5), 1988, p. 72).