Advanced Geometry at Mass MoCA
The placard next to wall drawing #391 reads “The two walls are each divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. First wall: 12-inch bands of lines in four directions, one direction in each part, drawn in black India ink…” On Monday, April 23rd, Mr. Turner’s Advanced Geometry classes traveled to The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams to explore the intersection of art and math at the Sol Lewitt exhibition.
Before entering the building dedicated to housing Lewitt’s work until 2033, our tour guide Rachel led us above the gift shop to the aforementioned wall drawing. Renowned for separating the concept behind his art and the work itself, Lewitt’s instructions described different geometric forms to be interpreted and drawn by draftsmen. Sam Perkins '14 was surprised to see “such incredible art through instructions, and how he could become so famous without ever drawing any paintings himself. His idea was unique.” Ali Malecka '14 shared a similar sentiment stating she was impressed by “how simple some of his descriptions were but the painting itself was so intense and detailed. When first reading the instructions, you expect something a lot different than what's painted on the wall.”
As we traversed the three floors divided into Lewitt’s early, mid, and late career work, Livi Robinson '15 was excited about the “noticeable alterations Sol Lewitt made as he progressed in his career. It seems that as the years went on his work became more complex.” However, in each stage of his work, patterns emerged. “The fact that Lewitt left room for interpretation in his art surprised me. Some of his instructions were purposefully vague so that different artisans made different versions of his work. For some of his pieces, when he sold each set of instructions, he was really selling 1,000 paintings. In a way, his artwork was meant to be a puzzle that the hired artisans figure out,” stated Alyssa Cass '15.
Math department chair and guest chaperone Kurt Schleunes was especially excited about Lewitt’s use of sine curves and properties of topology. Students returned to Berkshire ready to create their own Sol Lewitt inspired artwork and these will be on display around campus shortly.
-- Jasper Turner