Sometimes art is worth a pilgrimage — like a trip to the Sistine Chapel, or to Paris to see the Mona Lisa. For lovers of modern art, there's a new mecca: North Adams, Mass. That's where 105 of Sol LeWitt's large-scale drawings now live — and will continue to live for the next 25 years in a historically monumental exhibition.
Wall Drawing #1152: Whirls and Twirls (Kevin Kennefick)
All artworks by Sol LeWitt, part of Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Mass.
Wall Drawing #614 (right): Rectangles formed by 3-inch-wide (8 cm) India ink bands, meeting at right angles, July 1989.
Wall Drawing #880: Loopy Doopy (orange and green)
Wall Drawing #1171: Five Degrees Of Scribbles: a cube without a cube; a cube without a corner, August 2005
Wall Drawing #999 (left), Wall Drawing #958
Wall Drawing #462: On four walls, one room, arcs 4 inches (10 cm) wide, from the midpoints of four sides, drawn with alternating bands of gray and black ink wash, January 1986.
Wall Drawing #391:
Wall Drawing #852: A wall divided from the upper left to the lower right by a curvy line, June 1998.
Wall Drawing #793B: Irregular wavy color bands, January 1996.
A view of the gallery space at MASS MoCA.
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LeWitt, whose career spans from the late 1960s to 2007, when he died, was a pre-eminent minimalist and conceptual artist. His works are straightforward in conception: They begin as comically simple instructions for line drawings and color blocking. But in execution, they are a sight to behold.
With a predilection for order, simplicity and geometry, LeWitt "stressed the idea behind his work over its execution," as the exhibition release reads. From wall-sized charcoal line drawings, to gentle waves of matte and glossy paints, to psychedelic color-block patterns, LeWitt's drawings famously fly in the face of traditional art: They're not trying to say much; they're not trying to evoke much. But in an odd way, his drawings actually do both, maintaining the old aphorism that less is more.
Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective occupies an entire three-story building, renovated specifically for this project, on the campus of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The installation of LeWitt's works took six months, 65 artists and art students, and nearly an acre of wall space. The artist began making instructions and detailed plans in collaboration with the Yale University Art Gallery before his death. Execution of the project was undertaken by Yale, MASS MoCA and the Williams College Museum of Art. Now, for the first time, an enormous collection of his works can be found in one place.
Watch this time-lapse video to get an idea of the installation process:
Perhaps it's ironic that one of the art world's most anarchistic exponents would create such beautifully ordered and simple works. But it's the very simplicity that prompted viewers to reconsider what it means to make art — a reconsideration we can now make over and over again for the next 25 years in a small Massachusetts town.