Sol LeWitt: Between the Lines
Text Alessandra Lanza
Ten years have passed by since the passing of Sol LeWitt (Hartford, 1928 – New York, 2007) and we can be certain that the method chosen by the artist has come to fruition. Exactly fifty years ago with ‘Paragraphs and Conceptual Art’ featured in Artforum magazine, LeWitt formalized the superiority of an idea or concept over the execution and coined the term ‘conceptual’. As the one generating ideas, the artist is responsible for the planning of the project while the execution can be entrusted to any one at any time. That is why, as explained by Francesco Stocchi, co-curator alongside Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of the exhibition Between the Lines, running from November 17, 2017 to June, 23 2018 at Fondazione Carriero, in revisiting his work, «everything feels always new, fresh and relevant».
Organized in close collaboration with the Estate of Sol LeWitt, the significant body of works on display, which chronicles the artist’s career from the Wall Drawings to such sculptures as Complex Form and Hanging Structures to the photographic series Autobiography 1980, seeks to offer a new perspective on LeWitt’s practice that aims at reformulating the idea that a work must adapt to the architecture, thereby challenging the very notion of ‘site specific’. The exhibition explores the confines and the foundations of LeWitt’s practice as well as the relationship between his works and architecture, in this case that of Fondazione Carriero on via Cino del Duca. The role of architecture and of architects is similar not just in terms of the planning aspect behind an idea but also for the ability that both share of reshaping space through structures and shapes that are often separate from the environment in which they are placed.
LeWitt’s works «differentiate stylistically over time, yet each one of them is always brought to life in the present time hence they are not subjected to the patina of time or turned into fetish objects ». A use that can be compared – explains Stocchi – to that of temples of the East, China and Japan «where every twenty-five, thirty years the decorative motifs are painted over whilst continuing to preserve the original idea. It’s like regularly renovating the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Except that the Western attitude is about conservation whereas in here the philosophy is about making anew».
How important a role does the contextual background, in this case the Fondazione Carriero building, play in relation to the exhibition?
«The context is not only important but I would say even fundamental to the exhibition. To be more precise, it is as important as the artworks and the study on the artist’s practice that is carried out in a non-conventional way. The building housing the Fondazione is an historical one and therefore the furthest away from a work like White cube, which demands a reaction, a response to something. The very location is so defined and well-characterized that it requires to enter in a dialogue with the artist’s work and it’s as if it led to choices contrasting with the neutral, aseptic and possibilistic idea of a White Cube, which entails thinking in absolute terms whereas in the current state, thinking is in relative terms. Generally speaking, all the exhibitions hosted so far at Fondazione Carriero were developed starting from the very characteristics and features of the building and it would be difficult to export them somewhere else».
What was the biggest challenge about curating the exhibition?
«That of entering in a prolonged dialogue with an architect – Rem Koolhaas – in order to share and compare points of view on an artist. An architect that has always strived to go beyond his field of specialization not in pursuit of a redefinition of architecture. He seeks to exit his area of expertise to develop, perhaps at a later stage, the very idea of being an architect. The request was to work on the exhibition from scratch and not backing the idea of an already existing exhibition. The outcome of our collaboration was truly a mystery. We knew each other but we had no idea whether we would enjoy working together. At the beginning it was something difficult to control and we didn’t know where it would have led to».
What is the significance of an exhibition like this in Italy?
«It is significant in itself due to the perspective we brought on LeWitt’s work based more on the humanistic aspect rather than his Cartesian approach. The exhibition restores the relationship that LeWitt always had with Italy as well as his intellectual debt. He bought a house in Spoleto and would often visit Italy. That’s how he internalized the frescoes by Cimabue and Piero della Francesca and how he became a genuine lover of Italian culture, Italian taste and Italian palazzos. Hence, hosting the exhibition at an historical Italian palazzo has a clear significance: it is, in a sense, like coming full circle for an artist who was very vocal about his love for Italy».
If LeWitt was still alive, do you think that the exhibition would have been the same?
«LeWitt’s biggest revolution lied in the creation of an artistic language built for immortality and based on an idea that can be brought to life time and time again in eternity by beings other than the artist himself. I would compare his work to a music score: he loved Beethoven very much. The music his works are representing is always Beethoven’s, just like the original. LeWitt was very ambitious but also humble. His humility can be seen in his delegating to others. Let’s just say that he made sure that his absence would never be felt too painfully. In any case, the Estate of Sol LeWitt, the family’s foundation and the closest voice to the artist, which kept control over the philology of the work we have undertaken was very open in understanding the intentions, which might have been different than usual, and allowed us to operate as we deemed best».