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This Is Only Practice

Our fabulous Marketing Intern Will went on an adventure through the non-public buildings of MASS MoCA to share his thoughts on the LeWitt Practice Walls:

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After five weeks of working at MASS MoCA I finally gathered up enough courage to go wander our campus of abandoned factory buildings in search of a treasure that had intrigued me since my first week. Like any first week on the job I was taken around and given a tour of the building, shown where the bathrooms are, and given a history of the museum and the buildings we occupy. I learned that we have renovated and are using only 6 or so buildings out of a total of 27. I also learned that we use the remaining non-public buildings for a wide variety of things, mainly storage and workshops, but some hold treasures of times past. You can see previous MASS MoCA blogs that highlight the time capsule-like nature of our buildings, where you can find old tabloids with Tom Selleck on the cover. But what interested me most about these buildings were a set of practice walls used in preparation for the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective.

Yes, I am already very well aware that wanting to see a set of practice walls makes me an art nerd, but I don’t care, because they are sweet! Ever since I learned about how the Sol LeWitt wall drawings were made I had wondered how the draftspeople seemed to have not messed up even one time on all the 105 wall drawings in the exhibition! And once I was told that there were a set of practice wall located in the ruins of our buildings, where the draftspeople went and worked out kinks and practiced technique, I was hooked and eagerly ventured behind closed doors to check it out.

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As soon as I entered the right building I spotted what I was looking for. It wasn’t because of my keen sense of sight, but rather the very small scale of the space. It is a very narrow building and its length is only about half that of our largest gallery in building 5. Immediately three square walls jutted out at me and I scampered my way over to witness the hidden history behind the creation of the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective. I was as happy as a school boy during recess. I found that these six wall drawings show examples of five different styles of Sol’s drawings: India Ink washes, acrylic paint, his Scribbles series, carpenter’s chalk lines, and not straight not touching colored pencil line drawings. They are amazing. The two painted walls were fun to look at because I was able to see how some unknown draftsperson attempted to make clear and crisp lines between colors using masking tape and failed when colors bled across the line into another region of color.

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I had heard rumors that when our 60 draftspeople arrived to MASS MoCA and were executing the wall drawings that there was a heated debate over Sol’s concept of the “not straight” line. Was a not straight line a jagged line? Was it made of a number of smooth arcs like a sine graph? Or could it merely incorporate one little squiggle? This dilemma came to life in front of my eyes as I looked at the practice wall drawing that was covered in red, blue, and yellow “not straight” lines.

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I was also very pleased to see that there were two practice drawings for Sol’s Scribbles series. In this series of drawings, Sol returned to his original medium of graphite pencil but incorporated a new style of line, the scribble. Here in these two drawings I can see how the draftspeople practiced their scribbling technique, making sure not to find themselves in a rhythm that would result in a pattern of lines. These two drawings also made it remarkably apparent how fragile these wall drawings really are. You can see huge smudges across their surfaces where a stray or curious hand has ventured out and touched the graphite.

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However, the last wall drawing comforted me and brought me out of my worried concentration with a few simple words, “This is only practice.” With these simple words I was reminded that it was OK for these wall drawings to get smudged and be less than perfect, because they were just used as giant pieces of scratch paper for the draftspeople to perfect their skills on.

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This last wall drawing wasn’t a priceless realization of one of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawing concepts; it was just a blank wall where draftspeople practiced using the carpenter’s chalk line which can be seen in the real Wall Drawing # 51.

After looking at and experiencing these six wall drawings I was as happy as a clam. I felt like I had a deeper connection with the drawings and the exhibition and only wish my internship had fallen a year earlier and I would have been able to actually witness the draftspeople at work!

-Will

Posted October 14, 2009 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Interns, LeWitt
1 Comment »

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One Comment on “This Is Only Practice”

  1. MASS MoCA - Blog - What’s in a name? Says:

    [...] We could utilize the six practice wall drawing walls to our advantage. Why don’t we move them into the gallery space somewhere and then visitors [...]

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