6 WALL DRAWINGS
“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” So wrote American Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) on his approach to artistic creation and his experiments with wall drawing. The first of these murals were created almost 50 years ago on the walls of the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. The wall drawings are LeWitt’s most iconic work. He created 1200 of them between 1968 and 2007. Ten years after the artist’s death, the MBAL will celebrate this pioneer of conceptual art by setting aside a space in his honour for eight months. Six of his early murals – Wall Drawings #208, #209, #210, #211, #212 and #229 (1973 and 1974) – will be produced on the museum’s walls. Exploring the notions of impermanence and the immateriality of art, LeWitt’s work demystifies the artwork as a physical – and often fetishised – object while merging with the exhibition space that embraces it. Favouring geometric shapes (here, straight lines plotted within a square and drawn on the wall in lead pencil), LeWitt established a system based on the repetition of simple shapes. This approach enabled him to concentrate on the idea that makes up the work, an idea passed on to his assistants by means of a diagram and a set of precise instructions. LeWitt thus defined his practice by separating the concept and the execution. As in music, theatre or architecture, art is designed first and materialised later. The concept prevails over the execution, which is why the wall drawings are ephemeral – they exist for the duration of the exhibition and, once it is over, the walls are repainted. For LeWitt, each installation has its own value, so long as the concept is understood and respected by the draughtsmen and -women, and the execution does not affect the artistic quality of the work. The mural is adapted to fit the scale of each new space, resulting in an interpretation rather than a reproduction of the artist’s idea. The wall drawings are thus not fixed in either space or time. In demonstrating that art is predominantly an idea, LeWitt makes his work almost permanent because the concept lives on during the installations and can be continued in other places, thus rendering it unique and different on every occasion.
The exhibition is a partnership with the Pace Gallery (New York) and the Estate of Sol LeWitt. It is a stand-alone event running until 15 October 2017.