Article and photographs by Robin Park
Due to run until 2033, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective takes up three entire floors of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). Even outside the museum, the presence of the artwork is unmistakable; through the illuminated windows, parts of the exhibit peek out. Some are flamboyant, with brightly coloured geometric shapes converging across an equally flashy background; others are quieter, with variations of pencil lines on a white surface, grid-like and regular.
Yet though the visual manifestation of his works is physically astounding, there is an ever-present sense of intangibility in his pieces. A founding father of conceptual art, LeWitt believed that the idea behind an artwork was the most fundamental part of the piece. His belief is evident in his artistic process.
In rendering his wall drawings, LeWitt writes instructions on how to construct the artwork. Then, working with a team of artists, he allows others to interpret his written instructions. Based on the concept that an idea is malleable in the minds of its beholders, LeWitt demonstrates that the physical interpretation of an artistic work is merely one trait of a piece.
After an exhibition is over, the constructions are destroyed, illustrating the ephemeral nature of the physicality of art. The concept, however, is immortal, and can be reproduced time after time. The aesthetic features of the art differ every time the art is reconstructed, as his instructions allow for individual interpretation. Emotional reactions that the working artists feel become part of the art itself.
LeWitt has commented that “A blind man can make art if what is in his mind can be passed to another mind in some tangible form.” His goal was not to produce some singular, finite piece of art. Instead, he developed mental concepts and signs to be translated into the visual dimension—concepts that can exist simultaneously in multiple minds.
In this way, it is as poetic as it is conceptual.
In this way, it is as much ours as it is LeWitt’s.