I’ve always been a bit of a Sol Lewitt fan. He was an important artist to me in the sense that he was one of the first artists who challenged me to think about the role of the hand of the artist in making an art work. I was aware that many artists in the past had worked with assistants to help them execute their work, but Lewitt’s conceptual pieces where he offered just a list of instructions were the first that I came across that took the physical presence of the artists right out of the equation. An example of this approach is the Wall Drawing #118 made in Boston.
Since coming across his concepual, instruction based pieces I have regularly encountered his wall drawings and sculptures in numerous museums and galleries.
Here in The Netherlands we are lucky enough to have a number of venues than have from time to time featured his work. One of these is the BonnefantenMuseum in Maastricht. A few years ago they staged a fantastic four-man show featuring Lewitt, Mangold, Serra and Nauman. Part of this collection was a returning installation work in the dome of the museum that had been installed now for the third time, and for the first time since the artist’s death in 2007.
I visited the museum a couple of days ago and returned sttaight away to view the Lewitt Spiral. Its one of the monochrome works that the artist produced alongside the many colour based works he made. But somber it is certainly not. It has a truely geometric fizz, a sharpness of line that draws you in a integrates itself with the architecture of the building.
Alongside the Lewitt painted dome interior there is an exhibition of the work of Cai Guo-Qiang. It, like the Lewitt installation has something of a monochrome, even charred feeling to it. It includes many of the Chinese artist’s trade mark explosive paintings that were executed by igniting explosive charges on the surfaces of the works and displaying the scorched results. The works undeniably have an abstract beauty to them and also have at times intense colour due to the chemicals added to the firework explosives that are used.
Alongside these more well known pieces there is an extensive documentation of Cai Guo-Qiang’s earlier work from before he turned his practice in the direction of explosive work. These parts of the exhibition document sensitive paintings and drawings, portraits and self-portraits, family photographs and even drawings produced by the artist’s daughter as she has gradually become older. Seen altogether a surprisingly biographical insight into an artist’s existence, both inside and outside the art-world spotlight.