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Keeping my LeWitt’s about me


I ran up to the PMA today mostly because I hadn’t been there in a while but also because I’ve been stewing and fretting about contemporary painting and I wanted to go look at what’s up there just for point of comparison. (More on that later)


While looking around the contemporary wing I found a new (to me) work by Sol LeWitt. The label on the wall — a piece of paper that said “temporary label”– looked very official. It announced that the work, “Splotch,” from 2002-3, was a gift of Calder and Cole McNeill.

Now if you’re like me, you think of LeWitt as a guy whose work is all hard-edged geometry. (see top image of “Isometric Figure (#1 to 5),” a linocut from 2003)


“Splotch,” is an animal of a different stripe. (see image right — a little fuzzy but you get the idea..for professional snaps of some earlier, more modest splotches, see Barbara Krakow Gallery‘s website.)

A sculpture that looks like a Lego or Crayola meltdown, the work is sinuous and non-geometric in the extreme. Made of fiberglass, construction foam, plywood, epoxy resin and acrylic paint, “Splotch” is perky and fantastic. If LeWitt’s other work evokes building, domus, architecture of the real world, this piece evokes games and unreality. It’s the Rock Candy Mountains. And without being cuddly or cute, “Splotch” also encapsulates the cool of video games and 3-D cyber graphics programs.

The curators sited the piece just right, in a room with two other masters of cool — Warhol and Donald Judd.

Burt and Turtle

I enjoyed my LeWitt encounter then stopped in the Video Gallery where a strange-nature piece by Burt Barr, “Autumn, One of the Four Seasons” 2003 was running. (For more, read this from the PMA’s website) No more than six minutes and 42 seconds, the piece became more disturbing with each minute as I tried but couldn’t quite decode what was happening. burtbarr

Two turtles move slowly and seem to be interlocked. The rear turtle keeps raising his head and wiggling his arms and the front turtle hardly moves except to stick his head out every so often. Are they mired in the mud and struggling unsuccessfully to get free? Are they doing it in their own inimitable turtle way? There were no handy gallery notes nearby and my own anthropomorphizing cast the story as a life and death struggle in the mud. Whether or not that’s right (and reading what’s on the website, I suspect I’m dead wrong) the level of “objective” documentary reportage — without the voice overlay (Crocodile Hunter where are you?)– left me in limbo, a place I ordinarily don’t like. But, in retrospect, I appreciate the piece’s open-ended-ness and applaud its strange beauty.