A rather remiss absence of blogging of late, and obviously sitting on an aeroplane to Cartagena (Colombia) via Miami seems a good time to get back to it!
To say a lot has happened is an understatement… I’ll give you a vague flavour.
I’ve lived with my parents for 8 months, been through the most ridiculous house buying and moving process (in total 11 months), resigned from my job of 22 years, got a new job which involves holiday pay and a pension (I will never work enough hours for this to have any significant benefit, but it feels great all the same), got my first gig that uses my newfound understanding of the visual arts, got my first studio, sold 3 pieces of art (with more in the pipeline), made friends with Tracey Emin’s ex (long story) and, well, now I’m on my way to South America for the first time since 1997.
I think it’s fair to say I’ve been busy. Oh, and I forgot the walking stick (how I wish I could). I got a walking stick. After 12 months of waiting for the operation I need, and a shit load of drugs (not in a good way… I gather there is a good way?), the colorectal department is not meeting cancer targets and so the surgeon I need is not allowed into the gynae department. Not a waiting list, but a stagnant queue. God bless the NHS, crippled by cuts and government bureaucracy.
Anyway, I want to take you back to December 2017.
I was at MassMOCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). It was the last stop on my US trip. I hired an ‘economy’ car from Beacon (NY State) and drove, in a people carrier, to North Adams.
It would be rude not to mention that I stayed with the very lovely Michelle in her beautiful Airbnb house. She made me feel so very welcome, the epitome of mi casa es su casa.
The exhibition – Louise Bourgeois – was yet again (after MoMA and Dia Beacon) a completely different experience. Three sculptures, in stone and marble. Such an amazing contrast to the previous works I had seen, in size, material, style, pretty much everything. They contained such grandeur and humour.
The real highlight of the whole US trip, however, was saved for last. It wasn’t just the art either, but the light, the building, the curation, probably me, my state of mind and body, unique to that day, that hour, that minute. All colliding at once to create that moment. I sat there for a long time. It was so quiet, it was so perfect. Me and The Couple (2007-09). Not by chance (on the artist’s part) that as I sat there soaking it in, seeing myself reflected over and over in the body of the sculpture. As Bourgeois intended, I became part of what I could see.
It was going to be hard to follow this, but fortunately what did follow was not a disappointment.
Sol LeWitt. American artist. 1928-2007. It’s actually rather lovely to sit here and still feel the impact of his work, to find the emotional response has not diminished a year on.
Sol LeWitt’s work exists as a set of very specific instructions. Each time one of his huge canvases is installed in an exhibition it is different, created by a team of artist/technicians. In 1967 he wrote of his Wall Drawings – an integral part of his work – “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art,”.
This was a brill collision of my two lives – as a musician and as an artist.
Here was an artist who has written a score. Written every note, the length, the rhythm, the volume, the sound world. It’s all there.
Each time his work is recreated a group of artists makes this score visible again.
Is each installation different in the way that each performance of a musical score is unique? Does every technician bring their own unique style, that no amount of instruction can change?
For sure it is a unique performance which exists and then, when the exhibition is taken down, is gone.
It is as close to music in the visual art world as I have ever experienced.
Let me introduce you to a couple of examples:
‘Wall Drawing 422: The room (or wall) is divided vertically into fifteen parts. All one-, two-, three-, and four-part combinations of four colors, using color ink washes. November 1984. Color ink wash.’
He also wrote very specific instructions on the method to be used to apply the paint to the wall.
‘Wall Drawing 1180: Within a circle, draw 10,000 black straight lines and 10,000 black not straight lines. All lines are randomly spaced and equally distributed. August 1985. Marker’
Wall drawing 880 – Loopy Doopy (orange and green). September 1998. There’s a link here to a video of this picture being made, it’s amazing to think that all 105 of the pictures (taking up nearly an acre of space) took this input from this number of people!
To be honest, I don’t think I can begin to portray the emotional and physical impact that this exhibition had on me, and I cannot recommend highly enough visiting an (this) exhibition if you ever get the chance, or just wading through the MassMOCA web pages to give you more of an idea. The enormity of the event is an important part of its impact.
None the less, here’s more photos to whet your appetite.
As if to confirm that my worlds were, indeed, colliding, it just so happened the Kronos Quartet were also at MassMOCA the week I was there. They were working on a collaborative post with filmmaker Sam Green (a friend of a friend).
A perfect end to another interesting step up my steep learning curve and a perfect reminder that my worlds don’t have to be so very far apart.