PHOTO ESSAY

Sol LeWitt: 10 years in

A massive vision in the making

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On the eve of the opening of Sol Lewitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, Carol LeWitt chatted about her late husband's work as friends, family and museum donors viewed the three-floor exhibition during a private reception at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

"He had a vision for this building," she said of the newly opened Building 7. "Sol had a great sense of architecture. He'd absolutely be pleased with the outcome. He chose everything that is seen here and designed the layout. The only thing he would have hated is this reception."

Sol LeWitt, 78, who died in April 2007 after a prolonged battle with cancer, first began planning the exhibition after a nearly six-hour visit to Mass MoCA in 2003. His vision quickly became a 27,000-square-foot, three-floor installation featuring 105 of his wall drawings in Building 7. As part of his vision, LeWitt purposely chose to have walls built for his work, so that the original walls and hardware of the industrial building could continue to be exposed.

The retrospective, which is a collaboration between the museum, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Williams College Museum of Art, is scheduled to be on display until 2033.

Like many of Sol LeWitt's friends and followers who were overpowered by the exhibition, Carol LeWitt said she, too, felt slightly overwhelmed by the sight of so many of her husband's artworks in one place.

"I knew the power of his work, but seeing all of these pieces together — it's startling and beautiful," she said.

Announced in October 2007, this reporter, like many others in the area, spent the next 13 months following the creation of the galleries from the building renovation to the opening reception.

For six months, a team of 65 apprentices, interns and lifelong assistants of Sol LeWitt painstakingly followed his directions to perfection as they created each of the wall drawings. LeWitt rarely installed his own works, each of which exist as a set of directions.

During the 2008 reception, a majority of the patrons were snapping photographs of themselves in front of the artwork, as well as bare walls left over from the Sprague Electric Co. era — a practice that continues in the galleries today, 10 years later.


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