Why Love Sol LeWitt?

Today is the 3 year anniversary of the opening of MASS MoCA’s Sol LeWitt:  a Wall Drawing Retrospective!

As you may have noticed, we really love Sol LeWitt at MASS MoCA.  This is partially because we house his retrospective, which includes over 100 Wall Drawings, the majority of which LeWitt hand selected for the exhibit.  But also because LeWitt was a father of conceptual art, an innovator, as well as a comical and philosophical individual.

Here are some Sol LeWitt facts that show why we love him so much and what makes him truly unique:

For LeWitt, the idea behind the artwork is more important than the actual piece of artwork.

This is the most essential element of LeWitt’s art.  The artwork still holds value, but it is driven by the concept, hence conceptual art.  As LeWitt put it, “The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”

Zero of the Wall Drawings in our retrospective were drawn by LeWitt

LeWitt worked in the office of I.M. Pei, the modern architect best known for the Louvre’s glass pyramid.  He realized that Pei would create a blueprint for a structure, but Pei wasn’t the one hammering away at nails to construct the building, however he was still given the artistic credit.  The blueprint was a set of directions to be followed to create a great piece of architecture.  LeWitt decided to apply this to the art world.

For every Wall Drawing, LeWitt wrote a set of directions (the concept!) of how to create the piece.  These directions are public—they are online, at the gallery, printed in books, etc.  Anyone can access these directions, meaning anyone can create his artwork (or try to…it isn’t all that easy). He once said “anyone who would follow the plan is eligible to try—in good faith, I would hope.”

LeWitt did draw some of his Wall Drawings, but many are also drawn by artists or Sol LeWitt draftsmen, who dedicate their careers to interpreting his art.  For our exhibit we had 60+ draftsmen!  Essentially it doesn’t matter who does each wall drawing because the concept takes precedence over the interpretation.

Every piece in our exhibit is called a Wall Drawing, whether it was done with pencil, crayon, ink, paper, or paint, because they are all originate from the concept of his first Wall Drawing, which was drawn with pencil on a wall.

To own a Wall Drawing, you do not have to own the wall.

MASS MoCA doesn’t own any of the Wall Drawings! (Technically we don’t own any artwork because we are a non-collecting museum).  Whoever owns the certificate with the official directions owns the Wall Drawing.  For our exhibit, Yale University and the Estate of Sol LeWitt own most of the pieces.  The owners of the directions then designate who will house the Wall Drawing.

Wall Drawings only exist in one place at one time (for the most part).

Since anyone can follow LeWitt’s directions, there is only one official piece for each set of directions that exists at any time.  If you create one in your kitchen (which many people have done) that would be considered a Sol LeWitt Inspired piece.  That is, of course, only if you don’t own the official directions!

There are a few exceptions to this rule, including Wall Drawing 51, housed by yours truly.

To move a Wall Drawing, you never physically relocate the wall.  Instead, the Wall Drawing is always repainted.

Our Sol LeWitt Retrospective will definitely be up until 2033.  Say it is decided to end the exhibit and other galleries want to display these Wall Drawings.  We will not move our current Wall Drawings to the new location.  We will paint over all of our Wall Drawings so they become a blank wall.  Draftsmen will go to the new location and paint a new interpretation of the Wall Drawing there.  This means every time a Wall Drawing is in a new location, it is (slightly or drastically) different!

If we ever wanted to move a Wall Drawing from the middle of the exhibit to by the entrance, it would be the same thing.  We would paint over the current one and re-draw it in the new location.  It’s a bit more complicated than the typical relocation of a drawing, but definitely exciting!

LeWitt wanted art to be accessible.

This is evidenced by the nature of his conceptual art, creating directions, encouraging all to make art.  He also intentionally kept the price of his artworkdown during his life so more institutions and individuals were able to buy them!  He once said “Anyone who understands the work of art owns it. We all own the Mona Lisa.”

Hopefully we have convinced you why we love Sol LeWitt and are proud to have his Wall Drawing Retrospective.  If you are interested in learning more about LeWitt and his art process, every Saturday and Sunday at noon we have Sol LeWitt tours!

By Linnea DiPillo

Posted November 16, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, LeWitt
1 Comment »

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One Comment on “Why Love Sol LeWitt?”

  1. Stephen Persing Says:

    The ink wash drawings are at risk of fading over time. Will you re-execute these drawings should the need arise?

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