Body and Sol

‘Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective’ at Mass MoCA
By EVAN J. GARZA  |  November 11, 2008
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 1152: Whirls and Twirls (Met.)

“Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective” at Mass MoCA, 87 Marshall St, North Adams | Opening November 16; on view for the next 25 years | 413.662.2111
What’s the last time you really enjoyed 100 of something? Chances are, especially in this economy, it was grains of rice. (Thank you, Mitch Hedberg.) But if your palette craves something more elegant and colorful, you’ll have 25 years to enjoy 100 works by Sol Lewitt in a new installation dished out by Mass MoCA. (Yes, you read that correctly.) “SOL LEWITT: A WALL DRAWING RETROSPECTIVE” will be on view in North Adams for a whopping two and a half decades. So if you can’t make it out for the opening ceremony on November 16, check back when your unborn children graduate from UMass-Amherst.

LeWitt’s wall drawings have been difficult to come by — they’re generally executed for installation over short periods of time in various major museum surveys across the globe. (He did one for the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum’s Special Exhibition Gallery in 2005.) Now, selected pieces from his body of 1254 works made from 1968 to 2007 will be on view in a single location for a quarter-century, an exhibit that Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the co-organizing Yale University Art Gallery, has called a “visual feast.” The galleries are being filled with walls donning radically simple and carefully organized lines, multiple planes of solid color, isometric and geometric forms, layers of free-form shapes, and an endless display of color configurations. The amount of visual stimuli is staggering; the result is nothing short of awesome.

Conceived by Yale and the artist before his death in April 2007, and executed in collaboration with the Williams College Museum of Art, the semi-permanent exhibit is housed within a 27,000-square-foot mill on MASS MoCA’s sprawling campus. The three-story historic building is chock full of colorful wall drawings on a complex sequence of new interior walls constructed to LeWitt’s specs that span nearly an acre of physical wall space. It’s an elaborate and involved installation, especially for someone whose name is practically synonymous with Minimalism. But as an artist who frequently deployed conceptual thought across a multitude of media, LeWitt explained (in Artforum in 1968) that the idea is more valuable than the work itself: “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art."

In an effort to elaborate on this assertion, is currently sporting a beta site, “SOL LEWITT: A WALL DRAWING RETROSPECTIVE IN PROGRESS,” that includes a detailed floor plan of exhibited works and short time-lapse videos that document trained crews as they create wall drawings over a period of weeks or even months. The installation is not to be missed . . . but you’ve got time.

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