Where We Live: An Exchange About Sol LeWitt

Peter Good
Photo:Chion Wolf
Where We Live: An Exchange about Sol Lewitt
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Where We Live: An Exchange about Sol Lewitt

The Hartford-born artist Sol LeWitt is known for his large-scale wall drawings and paintings, which are still being “re-created” by artists to this day. 

His work is the subject of a massive retrospective at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.  Three enormous gallery floors show off the scope of his work and the changes it made.

Now that museum is presenting another aspect of his work – an “exchange” in which artists trade works and objects - A kind of “open source” model for the art world. 

Collaboration was the key to Sol Le Witt’s art – the collaboration between the many artists and craftspeople who helped him realize the what the art-going public would finally see.  It was truly conceptual art he made – art based on ideas. 

In fact, LeWitt often said “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”

Today we’ll celebrate the work and life of Sol LeWitt – we’ll talk to his friends, colleagues and admirers about what keeps his art and his ideas so vital. 



An Exchange with Sol LeWitt


Jan 23, 2011, 11:00 am–Mar 31, 2011, 5:00 pm

The story of Sol LeWitt's exchanges with other artists is widely known. Though most artists engage in this process at one point or another, LeWitt seemed fully committed to it as an artistic code of conduct, a way of life. Eva Hesse, Robert Mangold, Hanna Darboven, and Robert Ryman are just a few of LeWitt's celebrated contemporaries with whom the artist exchanged works. Such exchanges were not limited to well-known artists -- LeWitt consistently traded works with admirers whom he did not know but who had nevertheless sent their work to him, as well as amateur artists with whom he interacted in his daily life. LeWitt's exchanges —- he responded to every work he received by sending back one of his own -— fostered an ongoing form of artistic communion and, in some cases, a source of support and patronage. The Sol LeWitt Private Collection retains all of the works he received, as well as a record of what he offered in return.

For LeWitt, the act of exchange seemed to be not only a personal gesture, but also an integral part of his conceptual practice. In addition to encouraging the circulation of artworks through a gift economy that challenged the art world's dominant economic model, LeWitt's exchanges with strangers have the same qualities of generosity, and risk, that characterized his work in general. This kind of exchange was designed to stage an encounter between two minds, outside the familiar confines of friendship.

If we consider the process of exchange as another of Sol LeWitt's instructional pieces, then the rational (or irrational) thing to do is to continue to exchange work and ideas, if only symbolically, with him.

This exhibition, a curatorial project by Regine Basha, springs from a call to those who share an affinity with Sol LeWitt's legacy as a conceptual artist, to those who knew him and those who did not—to anyone who has ever wondered, "What would Sol LeWitt like?"

Cabinet and MASS MoCA issued an open call for gifts to Sol LeWitt in any form of an image, an object, a piece of music, or a film, books, ephemera, and other non-perishable items (e.g. wine) for a two-part exhibition taking place at MASS MoCA and at the offices of Cabinet (300 Nevins Street in Brooklyn) from January 20- February 19, 2011. A publication documenting the contributions will accompany the shows and will be presented at the conclusion of the project to all participants.