Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gettin' the Le(a)d out

On Oct 25, we went to Dia to hear Steven Evans' densely attended gallery talk on Sol LeWitt. I moved through the LeWitt galleries in a mindset infused with a talk I attended the night before at the Garrison Institute given by Father Thomas Keating. Keating spoke on the oneness of solitude and the power of centering prayer. For me, this viewing of LeWitt's wall drawings were informed by the tenets of Keating's talk that related to the discipline of silence, solitude and the power of centering prayer. Of course, Lewitt's process in creating these works is anything but silent, and solitary. His process is all about interaction, communication and collaboration; it relies on the swarm for its realization. But the effort of all of this activity is funnelled through the silent and fine point of a pencil grazing the wall. It's the disciplined focus of the pencil's point that sets condition for viewing the work which is quite different from its execution. Drawing is the visual analog of prayer. Solitary. Meditative. Looking at marks scaled up to equate room sized scrolls emphasizes the commonality of the two disciplines. The marks evident on the wall, however, represent but one component of the whole as Lewitt intended it to be considered. LeWitt offers the final drawing as a signifier to understand the system, which is the crux of his biscuit.

The system is the work of art; the visual work of art is the proof of the
System. The visual aspect can't be understood without understanding the system.
It isn't what it looks like but what it is that is of basic importance.

At the end of his talk, Steven quoted a talk given by LeWitt at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the late 60's. The passage related LeWitt's view that the performance of a music composer's work should be accompanied by copies of the score for the benefit of the audience, since many of the nuances with which the composer is engaged while crafting the system at the heart of the work is visible in the notations, but become indistinguishable in the aural mix. Such a graphic accompaniement, LeWitt believed, would allow the audience to know better the mind of the composer. Such a desire for that type of understanding relates back to Keating invoking silence as a mechanism to know better the system of the soul.

One year after his death, LeWitt is very much in the air.

Storm King's exhibit this year featured a selection of LeWitt's sculptures, and an informative documentary on the artist. You have through Saturday, Nov 15 to catch this show before the joint closes down for the winter. (A storm King tangent: The NYTimes website has a story and video on Maya Lin's Wave Field work that will open to the public in the Spring.)

On Sunday Nov 16, MASS MoCA will be opening a Heeeuge retrospective of one hundred wall drawings. Check out their website for all sorts of goodies relating to the exhibit.

Oddly enough, later in the evening, after Steven's gallery talk, as I was listening to the most recent podcast from the Hirschorn Museum, I caught an interview featuring Lacey Fekishazy who was recently in DC on the crew executing some wall drawings at the museum. Questions asked of Lacey and fellow artist/crew member Roland Lusk on the logistics of executing the work echoed those poised to Steven, and their answers offered a fine accompaniment to the earlier gallery talk. Lacey worked on the original LeWitt Galleries when Dia:Beacon opened, she came in 2006 to work on the Drawing Series..., and she partook in preparations for the MASS MoCA show. For giggles, and because I happened to come across it the other day, below is a photo of Lacey's studio from 2003 or 04 when she occupied a space at Spire Studios.

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