December 7, 2008

"The wall drawing is a permanent installation, until destroyed"

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 at Mass MOCA. Conceived by the Yale University Art Gallery 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.

In the NY Times, Holland Cotter writes that Sol LeWitt’s work is famously about ideas before all else. "He was one of the first artists to formally define — in a 1967 Artforum article — Conceptual Art. And he was among the first to make work that fit the definition: work that played down the unique art object, with its associations of individual genius, exchange value and physical permanence, in favor of utopian proposals, collective visions, objects that existed first and last as ideas. ('The wall drawing is a permanent installation, until destroyed,' LeWitt wrote in 1970.) A small show called 'The ABCDs of Sol LeWitt' at the Williams College Museum of Art, near Mass MoCA, zeroes in on that watershed 1960s moment with an archival display of his manuscripts and drawings, including a draft of the Artforum article with the words that put LeWitt’s career on the map: 'When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand, and execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.' The wall drawings are prime examples of this definition in action."

In the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee reports that "LeWitt was in thrall to the symmetries and permutations of mathematics, and he didn't especially care who executed his works. But when you see his works in situ, it's hard to hold onto the notion that the idea overrides all. These works give too much pleasure. They may begin with ideas, but eventually those ideas are reduced to a background hum....If it all sounds crushingly dull, the miracle is that it's not. It's as light and airy and joyous as can be."

"Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective," Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA. Through 2033.

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