METZ.- Centre Pompidou-Metz
presents a major project around the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). In the 13,000 square feet of Galerie 2, Centre Pompidou-Metz is hosting a retrospective of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings on a scale never seen before in Europe. The selected thirty-three wall drawings, the largest group ever exhibited in Europe, span the artist's career from its beginnings to his final works.
Chosen from the 1200 wall drawings which LeWitt created between 1968 and 2007, the selected wall drawings reflect both the extraordinary consistency of the artists systematic explorations - with logical sets and combinations of geometric elements - and the remarkable diversity of his practice, both in the evolution of the forms (from simple geometric figures to what the artist called "complex" or "continuous" forms), and of the materials used by LeWitt (from pencil and crayon to India ink, acrylic paint and graphite).
Through a remarkable partnership with local schools of art and architecture, the execution of the wall drawings at Centre Pompidou-Metz fully conveys the principle of collaboration advocated by the artist.
In partnership with Centre Pompidou-Metz, and as a chromatic counterpart to its retrospective of wall drawings in black and white, M-Museum Leuven (Belgium) will show from June 21 to October 14, 2012, twenty wall drawings in color.
In 2013, Centre Pompidou-Metz will feature Sol LeWitt's personal collection. This second exhibition will reflect LeWitt's extraordinary career not only as a prolific artist but also as an insatiable collector.
The LeWitt Collection (Chester, Connecticut), assembled largely through trades and gifts rather than purchases, contains, alongside a selection of LeWitt's own works, over 4000 works by other artists. With over 250 works, the presentation at the Centre Pompidou-Metz will be the first major showing of the LeWitt Collection in Europe.
THE PRACTICE OF WALL DRAWING
Reminiscent of the fresco tradition, Sol LeWitt's wall drawings marked from the late 1960s on, a decisive development in the history of contemporary drawing in particular, and of art in general. Expressing thought processes which the artist conceived beforehand, the wall drawings are then executed directly onto the walls on the scale of the exhibition venue. The wall drawings, produced on-site, exist for the duration of the exhibition; they are then destroyed, giving the work in its physical form an ephemeral quality. Its content (or concept) however remains identical from one exhibition to the next.
LeWitt conceived the drawings to be executed mainly by people other than himself. Professional assistants trained by the LeWitt studio, and drafters new to the process, are brought in to precisely follow LeWitt's instructions and diagrams. As the artist stated back in 1967, In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work (
) and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art. (Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, in Artforum, vol. 5, no. 10, New York, June 1967, pp. 79-83). Like musicians performing a musical score, the drafters interpret, each time slightly differently and in their own way, the geometric formulae set out by LeWitt.
LeWitt's wall drawings are based on:
a basic visual vocabulary of elementary geometric forms - straight, not straight, and broken lines, squares, arcs, circles, grids, etc. - which expanded towards more irregular, complex forms such as isometric figures, curves, and loops;
a range of diverse techniques using pencil, crayon, India ink, acrylic paint and graphite.
The artist never ceased to explore every possible combination of closed systems - the notion of the infinite was never part of his work - in which the repetition of forms and modules is conceived as a narrative in its own right.
THE CHOICE OF BLACK AND WHITE
Centre Pompidou-Metz has chosen to present thirty-three wall drawings by Sol LeWitt exclusively in black and white. "Black and white is at the heart of the conception of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings, even for the most colorful works," explains the exhibition's curator, Béatrice Gross."The preparatory drawings are always done in pencil. Colors, where they exist, are indicated only by their initial letter (R for red, Y for yellow, B for blue). In addition, the use of black and white frames the artist's work: LeWitt made his first wall drawings in black pencil, and the last ones in graphite, both on white walls."
This decision to show only black and white wall drawings also underlines the striking visual impact of LeWitts work. Depending on the materials and techniques used, the powerful contrast between black and white, or the more subtle contrast of various shades of gray, stresses the structure and the optical effects that bring the works to life, from the subtle vibration of pencil lines to the sustained cadence of flat areas of black and white in acrylic, through soft variations of ink washes.
AN EXHIBITION ORGANIZED IN CLOSE COLLABORATION WITH THE LEWITT COLLECTION
Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawings from 1968 to 2007 in Galerie 2 of Centre Pompidou-Metz has been conceived and developed in close collaboration with the LeWitt Collection (Chester, Connecticut). The format of the exhibition, the selection of the works, and their execution result from an ongoing dialogue with the artist's estate. The preparation of the exhibitions related publication benefits from a unique opportunity to research the LeWitt archives.