Monday, October 26, 2009

Sol Lewitt - Love-it? Hate-it?

Spent a weekend in the Berkshires earlier this month and made a day-long visit to MassMOCA - The Massachussetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. The museum's collection is housed in a restored 19th century factory - I loved the architecture and the soaring spaces but was disappointed at the dearth of actual paintings among the current exhibits. With the exception of the Sol Lewitt massive wall-sized paintings, of course -- but they are not really my cuppa tea.

Lewitt, a legendary Conceptual artist, stressed the ideas behind his works rather than the execution. Lewitt did not paint the massive wall-sized works in this exhibit but rather wrote precise and detailed instructions for their creation. According to notes on the exhibit,

"After nearly six months of intensive drafting and painting by a team of some sixty-five artists and art students, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective is fully installed . . . and will remain on view for twenty-five years. Conceived by the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, in collaboration with the artist before his death in April 2007, the project has been undertaken by the Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective comprises 105 of LeWitt’s large-scale wall drawings, spanning the artist’s career from 1969 to 2007. These occupy nearly an acre of specially built interior walls that have been installed—per LeWitt’s own specifications—over three stories of a historic mill building situated at the heart of MASS MoCA’s campus.

Here's a walk-through video of the exhibit as it was being installed earlier last year:

And here are pics I took with my phone during our visit -

The MassMOCA website has some cool timelapse videos of several of the paintings as the installation team drafted and painted, bringing the images to life. See themhere.

Although I could appreciate the effort and painstaking care involved in putting up the exhibit, it's not really something I enjoyed.

There was ANOTHER exhibit in an adjoining building, however, that was pretty cool - Simon Starling: The Nanjing Particles. Briefly, from an information card in the gallery, " Influenced by the museum's industrial history, Starling began his work with a stereoscopic picture of Chinese laborers who were brought to North Adams to break a factory strike in 1875. Two silver particles were extracted from the images of the Chinese shoemakers (photographed in front of the Sampson Shoe Factory which was once located on the MASS Moca campus). The grains were magnified one million times and forged in stainless steel in Nanjing, China."

One large end of the massive gallery held an enlargement of the original steoescopic photograph -- and had a huge hole cut in the middle through which you could view the rest of the soaring space:

And here are the million-times magnifications of the silver grains -- they were beautiful.

Finally, here is one of my favorite images from the day in the museum --

A shot of the concrete factory floor. It would have made a lovely painting...........


Anonymous said...

Re the concrete floor: I see a rather large fat reclining rabbit with a child's head peering over his rear end.
Amazing what we all see and visualize.

Don Heller said...

Great review of our visit, Victoria -- really enjoyed reading what you thought about it, since we really didn't spend much time processing (was it all the wine at Ann's????).

If readers are interested in more, here are some pics I took from a prior visit to the Sol LeWitt exhibit:

zan said...

hey v - long time...

have to concur on the lewitt exhibit - interesting, though doesnt hold my interest.

on the other hand, 'the nanjing particles' exhibit, in concept and execution, is very intriguing. your photos provide a great representation... nice work. i love the reflections photo!

thank you! for bringing your first hand gallery visits/impressions to your blog for all who cant be there themselves...


dinahmow said...

Another blog friend wrote about the Nanking Particles recently and I was intrigued then. So it's good to see your pics(different angle)as well.