In 2000, when SCMA had just closed for a major renovation and expansion, an anonymous donor from the class of 1947 gave SCMA Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides) . This important early wall drawing, which is executed in black pencil, was installed at SCMA for the first time in January 2008 by Roland Lusk, a draftsman from LeWitt’s New York studio with the assistance of three Smith students: Isabel Barrios Cazali ’10, Katherine Bessey ’10, and Sophia LaCava-Bohanan ‘08.
The Museum owns several of LeWitt’s sculptures and works on paper, but Wall Drawing #139 is different because it exists as a series of instructions until it is executed on a wall. A leader in the development of conceptual art in the U.S., LeWitt believed that the idea behind a work of art is more important than its execution. To that end, the artist created many works that took the form of detailed instructions that could be completed by anyone and at any time or place.
“Instructions for LeWitt’s wall drawings seem precise and rational, but their execution is often irrational, so that any beauty or aesthetic value that comes out of it is incidental,” says Aprile Gallant, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs. “At the same time, these simple systems create interesting anomalies as their instructions are interpreted by the people who follow them. These intersections between the rational and spontaneous are an essential component of the work.”
To accompany the wall drawing, an exhibition of LeWitt’s work will occupy the rest of the Ketcham Gallery on the Museum’s third floor throughout the year it is on display. Three rotating installations of works on paper from the early 1970s to the 2000s—including a small sculpture (Nine Pyramids on a Nine-part Grid, 1991) and a “drawing” made from a folded piece of paper—will consist of work from the SCMA collection as well as loans from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and private collectors. The installation also coincides with a major retrospective of LeWitt wall drawings at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the permanent installation of a LeWitt drawing in the new Federal courthouse in Springfield. The MASS MoCA exhibition, which opens in October 2008, will showcase 90 monumental wall drawings created between 1968 and 2007.
Sol LeWitt: Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides) is supported by the Ann Weinbaum Solomon (class of 1959) Fund, the Tryon Associates, the Members of the Museum, and the Museum Shop. Images by Sol LeWitt ©2008 The LeWitt Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Video by One Match Films, Easthampton, MA.