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Art does not wait to be seen

Posted by Patricia Harris  July 20, 2010 04:11 PM

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We had been wanting to see the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective at Mass MoCA in North Adams since it opened in late 2008. The museum occupies a group of 19th century industrial buildings and we've always admired the way the architects and designers left layers of old paint on the brick walls to recall the history of the site. It seemed a brilliant move to pair that accidental artistry with LeWitt's much more conceptual approach to marking a space. About 65 artists, interns, and apprentices spent the spring and summer of 2008 turning 105 of the artist's written concepts into actual works that are displayed in galleries on three floors of the massive museum. But since the retrospective is going to remain on display until the year 2033, we didn't feel a real sense of urgency about it. In fact, it became one of those things that we kept putting off until "later" -- like visiting the USS Constitution or hiking the Emerald Necklace.

What we didn't realize was that no photos -- nor even Sebastian Smee's fine review of the show -- could have the same impact as inhabiting the art. Nor did we realize how beautiful it would make the peeling bricks around it. The monumentality and surprising humanity of LeWitt's vision really come to life in the heroic setting.

Which is another way of saying to all travelers, don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 87 Marshall Street, North Adams; 413-662-2111; www.massmoca.org.

Posted by Patricia Harris & David Lyon

Photos by Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe

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