Olivia Jablonski, Live Wire Editor-in-Chief

The opening of the Sol LeWitt art exhibit at the Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery at Manchester Community College was a heartfelt evening filled with laughter and joy. The guests who attended the show gathered around to admire the work LeWitt left behind, leaving its younger generation of art students become inspired by the scientific and simplistic art surrounded inside of the gallery.

Right: Color Bands, set of 8. Left: Lines in Color on Color to Points on a Grid by Sol LeWitt. Photo Credit by Olivia Jablonski

The opening reception took place on Thursday of February 19 at 6 p.m., featuring works by the local artist Sol LeWitt, who has now passed on but has left behind a major force in the field of contemporary art.

Susan Classen-Sullivan, a Professor of Visual Fine Arts and the Director/Curator of the Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery at MCC, made a brief introduction during the show and discussed LeWitt’s work and its significance behind it.

LeWitt’s daughters, Sofia and Eva, were also present during the event. They dressed as one of their father’s pieces, wearing a black and white striped maxi dress/skirt. Their outfits represented as the set of the three silkscreens which consists of a square that is divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. Each with a direction of alternating parallel bands of lines.

Douglas Hyland, the Director of the New Britain Museum of American Art and a dear friend of LeWitt, spoke at the opening as he shared the life and times of the illustrious artist and what his work meant to him and the few people who have known him for many years. “He was well known for his generosity,” said Hyland. “He had a wicked sense of humor and applied it to some of his art. He never avoided an opportunity to do something for the museum.”

LeWitt was born in Hartford, CT to Eastern European immigrants but grew up in New Britain with his aunt after his father passed away. At a very young age, he was first introduced to the world of art when his mother had taken him to attend to his first art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford. Soon thereafter, he would begin drawing on some wrapping paper from his aunt’s grocery store, not being aware of the fact that art would change his life forever.

LeWitt’s refined vocabulary of visual art consisted of lines, basic colors and simplified shapes. He applied them according to formulae of his own invention, which hinted at mathematical equations and architectural specifications, but were neither predictable nor necessarily logical. For LeWitt, the directions for producing a work of art became the work itself; a work was no longer required to have an actual material presence in order to be considered art.

Arcs and Bands in Color by Sol LeWitt. Photo Credit by Olivia Jablonski

Arcs and Bands in Color by Sol LeWitt. Photo Credit by Olivia Jablonski

LeWitt’s conceptual pieces often did take on at least basic material form, although not necessarily at his own hands. In the spirit of the medieval workshop in which the master conceives of a work and apprentices carry out his instructions based on preliminary drawings, LeWitt would provide an assistant or a group of assistants with directions for producing a work of art. Instructions for these works, whether large-scale wall drawings or outdoor sculptures, were deliberately vague so that the end result was not completely controlled by the artist that conceived the work.

In this way, LeWitt challenged some very fundamental beliefs about art, including the authority of the artist in the production of a work. His emphasis is most often on process and materials (or the lack thereof in the case of the latter) rather than on imbuing a work with a specific message or narrative. Art, for LeWitt, could exist for its own sake. Meaning was just not a requirement.

LeWitt was a very enthusiastic champion of the artistic community. His willingness to exchange his own work with nearly anyone, whether with an amateur or well-established artist, encouraged a kind of support network in the visual arts. His work is not only viewed as just simplistic but there was a sequential arrangement to everything he had done.

His work is not only featured at the Newspace Gallery, but more of his pieces can be seen at the New Britain Museum of American Art. If anyone is interested in further exploring LeWitt’s work, click on the museum’s website to find out more information about the exhibition: http://www.nbmaa.org/. The Newspace Gallery will also keep the exhibition active until April 29.