On Sunday September 13th 2015, the Northampton Modern Quilt Guild had a private tour of the Sal LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective at MASS MoCA, in North Adams, MA. Above we’re pictures in front of a very “quilty” later work of Sal DeWitt.
This amazing exhibit has 105 wall drawings and is displayed on three floors of a 27,000 square foot building, which was renovated especially for this work. The first floor of the exhibit are wall drawings designed in the late 1960’s and 1970’s and were made with pencil (both lead and colored). These from far away, these wall drawings appear as soft, gradual shading of graphic shapes (below).
Up close, these drawings were evenly spaced simple parallel pencil lines – vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines in lead gray and primary colors.
Close up, these reminded me of straight line quilting, but from far way, the effect was similar to low density piecing.
Each image was designed as a grid, which was then translated into the wall drawing, as defined by Sal LeWitt. Often times, each wall drawing would have as many permutations or combinations of parameters as possible. Can you get much more quilty than this wall drawing?
The first floor, also had studies in white chalk on blue walls – with defined shapes both as solid and dashed lines in grids presented in different orders. There were twelve total shapes (larger blocks at the top of the image) that were the combined by Mr LeWitt (see small blocks below).
When assembled, these displays were appeared as continuous white lines, but when you looked up close, the pencil lines of the defined grid work was visible. Being true quilters, we were looking for the blocks in the assembly.
The early work, also had Wall Drawing 38 – paper inserted into grey pegboard walls. As with the pencil drawings, four colors of paper were used (white, red, blue and yellow), but the shadows made a secondary pattern that gave a similar effect to quilting.
The second floor of the exhibit, work from the 1980’s- 1990’s was displayed. Mr. Lewitt continued with grid work, but rather than using lines to shade the drawings, India ink and colored inks were mixed to color the wall grid works.The colors were mixed and provided a blending affect, similar to what is seen when we use “shot” cottons in quilting. As before, some drawings were assembled to show all combinations of parameters selected for the drawing. The two images below are one “drawing” on a continuous wall with pure grey; then red yellow, and blue; a darker hue of each primary, then secondary colors (orange green and purple) and finishing with the darker hue of each secondary color.
The third floor of the exhibit displayed LeWitt’s work from the 1990’s to 2007. The work on this floor featured saturated colors, and also used the juxtaposition of glossy and flat finishes. In addition, curves are more prominent in his later work.
Scribble drawing were also part of LeWitt’s later work. It was amazing the amount of depth was obtained by the shades based upon density of lines (distance below left, close up on the right).
What I didn’t know until today, was that the artist would “design” the wall drawings, which were then installed in spaces, by other artists. His instructions often were vague such as the placard (below right) and resulted in the drawing below left:
After the exhibit, the group had a great lunch at the Public House in North Adams MA and discussed how the NMQG could structure a challenge that based on what we saw today. We could make it broad (ie “inspired by Sol LeWitt”), or we could define the challenge ( ie “must contain X number of colors and only use triangles”). What do you think?
We had a great day. For those of you who couldn’t join us – I’d highly recommend spending an afternoon with Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. I think you’d be amazed and inspired by the graphic quilty-ness of his work.