Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Artist of the Week: Sol LeWitt

September 9, 1928 - April 8, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my visit to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art - MoCA, here. and here, where I promised a post about the work of Sol LeWitt, whose wall paintings recently went on exhibit there.

Following is a brief biography of the artist.

Sol LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1928, and attended Syracuse University. After serving in the Korean War as a graphic artist, he moved, in 1953, to New York, where he worked as a draftsman for the architect I. M. Pei. LeWitt had his first solo exhibition at the Daniels Gallery, New York, in 1965, and the following year Dwan Gallery, New York, mounted the first in a series of solo exhibitions. He participated, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, in several significant group exhibitions of Minimalist and Conceptual art, including "Primary Structures," at the Jewish Museum, New York, in 1966, and "When Attitude Becomes Form," at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, in 1969. His renowned text "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" was published in 1967. LeWitt's work was included in Documentas 6 (1977) and 7 (1982) in Kassel, as well as the 1987 Skulptur Projekte in Münster and the 1989 Istanbul Biennial. Major retrospectives of his works were organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1978, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in 2000. "Drawing Series..." a presentation of LeWitt's early wall drawings was installed at Dia:Beacon in 2006. Sol LeWitt died on April 8, 2007 in New York City.


The Mass MoCA exhibit is a retrospective of the artist's famous wall drawings. The project was a collaboration between Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, in collaboration with the artist before his death in April 2007, and undertaken by the Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The retrospective spans 105 works by the artist from 1969 to 2007. The walls are installed in Studio 7, which is a 27,000 foot structure within the factory complex turned museum, and take up three stories. Designed specifically to accommodate the LeWitt art works and with input from the artist, the space will feature the exhibit for twenty-five years. New interior wall, stairways and walkways were built to facilitate the viewing of the exhibition between spaces and floors where the walls are displayed.

Mass MoCA is the perfect space for this multi-level exhibition. Previously, there was no place available that could accommodate so many wall drawings at once. If students and art lovers wanted to see LeWitts, they had to travel to many different museums and galleries, far apart from one another.

stairwell (above) and walkway (below) between levels of the exhibition

One of the most interesting aspects of LeWitt's work is that he drafted plans in the form of instructions and diagram for his wall drawings which were themselves the chief representations of his work, to be executed by others. In essense, the concept of the art over the actual process of it, dominates the work of Sol LeWitt. In 1968, when LeWitt began his wall drawings, this was considered radical in the art world.

In this collaboration the executors of the drawings themselves were done over a six month period and included twenty-two of LeWitt's senior assistants and thirty-three college students from Yale University, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (a state college) in North Adams, Williams College, several local artists and graduate students from several colleges and universities around the country.

The black and white circular patterns were among my favorites

The exhibition was so rich with bold colors and patterns at times juxtaposed at varying angles.
Above is one of my favorites. I've looked at this photo again and agains since my visit. It's wonderful that these installations will be there for so long, as there is still much to discover in them on subsequent visits.

Detail of wall drawing


  1. your photos convey such a sense of the expansiveness of the exhibit! and the colors are wonderful

    I love giant art ;)

  2. SUCH great photos. I wish I could have seen them in real life but your shots are almost as good!

  3. very 1960's :) i love them. i like this kind of art- not so much the jackson pollackesque stuff- but this has real form and color and i guess it appeals to my sense of order :) thumbs up on this exhibit.

  4. Dianne: I'm glad the pictures revealed at least a little about the experience of seeing these giant installations. Thanks!

    Kay: thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. If ever you visit Mass., you really should check out MoCA. With the LeWitt stuff, you have the next 25 years!

    Betmo: you make a good point about "order". I don't usually like orderliness but I did with these because they are so painstakingly precise - which makes them beautiful. And then there is the glorious color. I also really dig the "concept art" aspect to it. He was a real revolutionary. Something I really didn't think about until this exhibit.

  5. Thanks for sharing this amazing work! I'd love to see it in real life but didn't think I stood a chance until I read your comment above. The fact that it will be there for the next 25 years gives me at least some hope...

    Great photos! I'm wondering how on earth you are able to take photos. Galleries over here are super strict about it & most have 'no photography' rules. Unless you're a bit of a rule breaker & sneak a camera in. I do & spend much of my time dodging the gallery security people. I understand the reasons for their rules & I'd really like to adhere to them (& I do try to!)...but sometimes I just really NEED to take a photo..or 2 or 3... ;D

  6. i like them. they aren't really my cup of tea but they are good.

    i love the building tho. that really is a great place.

  7. First - I love your photos of the stairwell and walkway.

    The art is fantastic. Really love the color and form.

  8. This man's art delights! I really enjoyed seeing it, and your photographs showcase it to perfection. Good job!

  9. wow, this is really amazing and your photos of the works are always :)

  10. Yes, it looks like a great show and I'm delighted with your extraordinary photographs since it's another I'm unable to attend.

    btw - I also love the sidebar pic of you and your lovely daughter.

  11. In a 2D photograph, the black and white circular stripes were the most interesting to me. I'd have to see the show in person to really know how I would feel about the works for sure.

  12. Off-topic: Gina, did you hear that Andrew Wyeth died? (May he rest in peace)

    [Recalling when he was the recent "Friday Night Nudes" artist---hoping there will be another FNN post here, um, soon? ;-)]

  13. jCF: Oh, hell, yes. I actually got a phone message from The Cunning Runt about Wyeth's death.

    Look for a post tomorrow. I'm currently only stealing glances at my blog while watching Coal Miner's Daughter with WP. :-)

    Thanks for thinking of me. (hug)

  14. Harriet: MoCA allows photographs everywhere, which makes it even more fun to visit. I'm glad you think you'll make it to the U.S. within the next 25 years. I hope the same about a visit to Australia. I love your pictures!

    Sherry: the building has been incredibly well renovated to accommodate the big art. You would think it would be cold and gloomy but it's not at all - a tad pretentious but very warm and playful and inviting. The cafe is also ample and buzzing with people and activity on a busy day.

    Bobbie: thanks! I'm glad I photographed them since they were created for the exhibit.

    Quintessential Magpie: love that name! Glad you enjoyed the art.

    Linda: it's great to see your comment! Thanks for the visit - as always. ;-)

    Susan: glad you liked the feature. And thanks about the photo of SG2 and me. I love that picture.

    Libhomo: I'm quite sure you'd enjoy the work in person. Thanks for coming by.

  15. So in this post and comments I discover that two of my favorite living artists passed over into the list of favorite deceased artists... I've got a lot going on inside, dealing with that knowledge (I didn't know LeWitt had passed away, and I have been avoiding news for several weeks, so I hadn't heard about Wyeth) AND dealing with these wonderful photos. I've seen several LeWitt works in various museums around the country - several wonderful ones are in the National Gallery - and I always love them. They're so playful, and they're not full of themselves.

    And they're not full of him, either. They have the joy of collaborative efforts. I sense that he got as much pleasure from knowing and working with all the artists around the world as he did creating the pieces. He was a lovely human being, a philosopher, and an artist.

    And while I know the world contains more Wyeths than I could ever see or absorb, it's still sad that there will be no new ones - at least not from Andrew. Maybe from his son, though...

  16. Gina, these photos are amazing, they make me feel like I'm there!

    Is this in the big room where Fourteen Stations was? I kind of hope not, that was such an amazing space to have installations pass through.

    Anyway, I have to see that soon. :)

  17. Steve: I'm now a huge fan of these wall drawings; in large part due to the process in creating them. I like less LeWitt's geometric sculpture-like things. If you know the ones I mean.

    CR: you really ought to check this out. You're mathematical. I think you'll enjoy these. AND. You have a long time to visit - 25 years, to be exact.

    Thanks all for stopping by.

    Yours in peace and with love,


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