Archive for the ‘Berkshires’ Category

Opening Sunday and you may only have 25 years to see it – Sol LeWitt wall drawings at MASS MoCA


This Sunday – the great Sol LeWitt wall drawings exhibition will open at MASS MoCA. Almost an acre of LeWitt. They’ll stay up for at least 25 years.

It’ll be a knockout and will change forever how you look at art and exhibitions.

So I thought I’d re-post my story from this past summer on how the LeWitts were made:

You too can present a retrospective of the great Wall Drawings of Sol LeWitt!

You’ll need a crew. Art students will do. Also recent art graduates, and artists- if they can follow instructions.

You gotta buy ’em some paint. Get the good stuff.

Maybe they’ll throw in some hats.

Find a large space. Very large. We’re not talking precious little miniatures. Usually, an abandoned industrial warehouse, factory, or a mill complex works well.

From the days when America actually made stuff you could use.

But inside you’ll have to build white walls. Lots of them. And make sure they’re to LeWitt’s specifications.

Follow the plan for what goes where, or you’ll be at your wits end.

(Even the plan is beautiful.)

Now pin up the working drawings by LeWitt so you know what to follow. They’re done by hand, not computer. So, as “perfect” as they look, they’re not. That’s refreshing.

If you’re lucky, Sol LeWitt’s daughter Eva, a colorful artist in her own right, might lend you transparencies and one of those good, old-fashioned overhead projectors.

Now get out your tape and mock up the walls!

Remember, Sol LeWitt had helpers too.

If you’ve done it all right, interesting patterns will start to appear.



Line up your charts of the colors LeWitt specified to make sure you get ’em right

and let ‘er rip! (click the arrow)

Music to my ears.

Handwork, as at Lascaux.

Yes, if you follow LeWitt’s instructions you too can produce absolutely stunning Wall Drawings

The world around you is transformed.



The later, bolder ones

show how artists use of color often changes as they age.

So for your retrospective, try to include some of LeWitt’s more subtle works

Those are revelatory. And it’s moving to follow the artist’s path.

For these subtle ones, have the crew keep the pencils very sharp

To get

Can you say compulsive?

And keep the lines fine and straight, or this poor guy will go blind to correct it! (click on arrow)

When you’re all done, you’ll have wonderful, jarringly powerful spaces:

just like at the Sol LeWitt retrospective opening at MASS MoCA November 16, 2008.

Congratulations to the crew! And to MASS MoCA’s Director Joseph Thompson, and to all involved, including Yale University Art Gallery, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and Bruner/Cott and Associates architects, who restored the building.

Done in collaboration with Sol LeWitt, before his death in April 2007. The retrospective will include one hundred works—covering nearly an acre of wall surface—that LeWitt created from 1968 to 2007.

Here’s how it came to be, according to MASS MoCA: Jock Reynolds, the Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, who in 1993 worked closely with LeWitt to produce an earlier retrospective of his wall drawings brought Sol LeWitt to see MASS MoCA and its Director Joseph Thompson.

“LeWitt toured the MASS MoCA’s campus of industrial buildings, where the artist was immediately intrigued by Building #7. The structure, situated at the center of MASS MoCA’s multi-building complex, and featuring large banks of windows that open onto two flanking courtyards, appealed to LeWitt as an ideal site for a multifloor installation of his work. His specifications for the space included new circulation paths, including a series of “flying bridges” and newly created courtyard spaces, that will connect the LeWitt building to MASS MoCA’s changing exhibition galleries and entry lobby.

Thompson comments, “As we’ve built the interior partitions to Sol’s specifications, it has become clear that his understanding of architectural space was as masterful as his wall drawings themselves. He consciously sited his wall drawings to engage both the interior of Building #7 and its outside environment. It is stunning to see how well his monumental aesthetic intervention within the heart of the MASS MoCA campus of buildings is going to enliven the entire museum. Sol left almost every window in Building #7 generously open to invite in a play of continuous natural light—which is somehow typical of his creative spirit.”

“Detailed,” “painstaking,” and “strangely liberating” are terms that have been used to describe the experience of creating Sol LeWitt’s monumental wall drawings. The drawings at MASS MoCA will be executed over a six-month period by twenty-four of the senior and seasoned assistants who worked with the artist over many years. They will be joined by thirty students from Yale University, Williams College, and North Adams’s Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, as well as by undergraduate students from other colleges and universities around the country.”

Along with Tadao Ando’s buildings for the Clark Art Institute in the same area, by November this is worth a trip.

Rest easy, in your pretty little town in the Berkshires, knowing you’ve added interest to the world. Rest easy too – your work lives on – Sol LeWitt.


MASS MoCA has a fine website. And read Richard Lacayo’s excellent posts and interview with MASS MoCA’s director Joe Thompson: parts 1, 2, 3, 4.


Ando’s wood building in the Berkshires will open this weekend


Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s first wooden building in the US will open this Sunday, June 22.

He comes from a land that I suppose knows something about wood.

Ando’s previous buildings in the US have been mostly in the smooth concrete he specifies,

such as his miraculous Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.

(Through October 4, 2008 The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis is showing Dan Flavin: Constructed Light. Wouldn’t that be fabulous to see in Ando’s spaces? And to go along with that, to demonstrate the “shapes of light,” the Pulitzer will present on June 18, 2008, a concert of music by John Cage, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Smart programming. With David Robertson conducting!)

But the Clark Art Institute is in the Berkshires and Ando’s wood – along with steel and glass – fits in well. Here it is, seen last winter. I posted on it then, here and here, when it was under construction, and before the landscaping was done.

The Clark says,

“The selection of Mr. Ando was influenced by his other work in pristine rural settings, where he has created modernist buildings that complement the natural beauty of their surroundings.”

In the Berkshires, he’s building among the fir (?) trees:

Ando’s favorite material is concrete, but he has used wood before, such as at the Japan Pavilion for Expo ’92 in Spain and at around the same time, for the Museum of Wood deep in Hyogo, Japan’s Mikata-gun Forest.

“The Museum of Wood was built to celebrate the National Tree Festival, which has been held every year for forty-five years since the Emperor established it following destruction of the country’s forests in the second world war.

The museum is a declared homage to the huge task of reconstruction of the forest resources of which Japan is now justifiably proud, and the fact that it is constructed almost entirely out of wood demonstrates the Japanese veneration for this product of nature that underlies the country’s traditional concept of what architecture is.”

Earlier this month I was in Japan and saw Ando’s shopping mall (shopping mall!) – upscale to be sure – on Tokyo’s famed shopping street Omotesando. (Omote-sandō (表参道))

It’s one of the rare avenues in the Japanese capital to feature trees for a great stretch. There he built along that street’s famous zelkova trees:

These are the trees that inspired his fellow Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s building for Tod’s, across the street.

Ito’s Tod’s also takes the form of the famous zelkova trees, and reflects them.

The Vuitton store, a masterpiece by Jun Aoki, also shows off the zelkovas.

And doesn’t it, in its way, look like the Katsura Villa in the very top photograph?

Anyway, back to Ando. He designed a shopping mall (with high-end residences) for this street. On the outside:

And on the inside, shadows of trees are brought in:

The shadows move, with fancy machinery such as this (how very Japanese!)

And you hear new age music and the recorded sounds of birds:
(click on the arrow)

And even though a mall, it’s lovely inside:

And isn’t this like a river, cascading through the forest.

Who would have thought that Ando’s concrete would work so well, be elegant enough for a high-end mall? But it’s done well, poured well, finished well and proportioned well.

In a way this is a wooden building, although you don’t see it. What makes Ando’s concrete “smooth-as-silk” is not the mix of concrete he specifies, but the high quality wooden form work into which it is poured.

Back outside, in the rain that makes that the trees grow, Ando’s translucent glass shines beautifully modernist on the avenue.

Saturday, June 21 2008, Tadao Ando will be at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. for the opening of Phase I of his work there. He’ll speak about his Clark projects and other recent work in a members-only lecture. Join the Clark, it’ll be worth it. Ando packs a punch. He’s a former boxer (true!)

Saturday night the Stone Hill Center, as this new building is called will open with a gala.

I can’t wait to see this landscaped, and in summer. Although, good Japanese architecture understands winter too.

Ando has given us a nice modernist interplay between the straight line and nature’s curves. Between the industrial and the organic. And a very provocative, yet satisfying Japanese interplay between solid and void.

32,000-square-feet for new galleries, that’s them behind the glass above, so they’ll have natural light when appropriate.

To open these rooms this weekend, the Clark has chosen twelve paintings from its collection that should heighten the connection with nature already embodied in the architecture.

From Clark PR: “Stone Hill Center brings us into the surrounding landscape as never before and allows for spectacular views from the terrace of Tadao Ando’s splendid new building,” said director Michael Conforti. “We have carefully selected these works by Homer and Sargent to highlight the art in nature experience….
Paintings owned by the Clark show Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent capturing sensations ranging from North Atlantic cold to North African heat.

On view June 22 through October 19.

Should be nice, a dozen paintings in contemplative rooms in the woods.

The Stone Hill Center will also house a meeting and studio art classroom, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, the largest regional conservation center in the U.S. Here’s one of its rooms with a view:

A terrace café will offer calming views of the Taconic Range and Green Mountains (also seen last winter.)

A new network of trails and paths helps integrate the building into the landscape. Landscape architecture by Reed Hilderbrand Associates.

The Clark is rightfully- and now more than ever- proud of being one of the few major art museums in the world in a rural setting. And theirs is the beautiful Berkshires.

Remember, this week only Phase I of their expansion will open. Phase II will be even more exciting. It will include a second new building by Ando: the Exhibition, Visitor, and Conference Center. Plus a one-and-a-half-acre reflecting pool to visually connect all the buildings on the main campus and reorient them toward Stone Hill.

I think most public buildings could use a reflecting pool. But that’s enough reflections from me.

One more shot from last winter from inside one of his new galleries.

Reminds me of the Farnsworth House porch, and the cross at the end reminds me of Ando’s famous Church of the Light in his home town of Osaka.

The solids and voids are reversed. Is that because the church is sacred and the gallery profane?

I’ll be at the Clark this Friday and Saturday. (I’ll also tour the Sol LeWitt installations going up at the nearby MASS MoCA.)

I’ll talk to Ando, and bring you all the news and new photos. Maybe even more video!

I think I’ll ask him about this: When Ando was a boy in Osaka, a carpenter lived across the street. Ando spent a lot of time there. The carpenter taught him a love for wood and working with it.

Update 6/22: We’ll have lots more to say about the new Clark building, having spent three days there, including interesting talks with Tadao Ando. Check back soon.

Putting up the Sol Lewitt Wall Paintings at MASS MoCA


Better than Stomp
The artists at work call this “dance” “the Boom-Boom.”
Click on the arrow.

More on this great exhibition soon. The Sol LeWitt retrospective that you see going up at MASS MoCA is beyond stunning. I’d seen the spaces empty and had been told what would go up, but you can have no idea of their splendor and impact and how they transform your being until you see them.

One hundred works, each wall size, created over forty years. Together they cover almost an acre of wall space at MASS MoCA. Where else would have the space for this? This will open in November and they’ll remain in place for at least twenty five years. Sol LeWitt was involved with the exhibition, too bad he didn’t get to see it before his death in April 2007.

And from “dance music” to one of the “quietest” buildings you’ll ever visit.

Where everything is at rest. I’ll also post soon on the very peaceful new Tadao Ando Clark Art Institute galleries in the woods; and the adjoining Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Together with the Ando terrace you see below, from which to contemplate the beautiful Berkshires.

But right now, on this Sunday morning, I’m just enjoying this.