MASS MoCA

I don’t know how one could visit North Adams, MA and overlook a trip to MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).  Housed in the sprawling old Sprague Electric Company mill complex, the museum offers hours of enjoyment as you peruse the maze-like structure, and currently showcases a multi-floor Sol Lewitt exhibit that, in my honest opinion, deserves its own post on this blog.

I won’t pretend to be an art critic, or act like my technical understanding of art far exceeds the ‘History of Modern Art’ course I tried to take as a senior-sleeper at UNC, but to ignore the fact that this museum, more than any I’ve visited before, makes you feel the art would be to do the space a serious injustice.  Working with the fact that it is America’s largest contemporary art museum, the installations aren’t confined to the formulaically cramped, room-after-room style that I think many museum amateurs (like myself) find a subconscious turn-off of the museum-going experience. This building is an exhibit in itself, and you might find yourself, as I did, wondering in bewilderment at the sheer size of the structure, and its implications as a remanent of the manufacturing backbone that the country was built on.

It’s unfair of me to overlook any of the exhibits, but for the sake of brevity (and I mean that loosely), I want to single out two of my favorites – an already passed exhibit (that I can’t find in the archives) about our digital lives, and the ongoing Sol Lewitt exhibit.

The former was a great introspective on how the internet and technology has changed the way we interact with each other, share our lives’ experiences, and learn in the digital age.  As a web developer, I’m sure this installation struck a special chord.  The physical representation of Wikipedia (below) brought a chuckle, and the room with the small portion of images of the Sun from Flickr (which took up an entire wall), and the small portion of images of people in front of images of the Sun (also from Flickr and also taking up a wall) made me realize just how much of our lives we share with the world (which is even more humorous when written from a blog).

The exhibit that took my breath away and had me staring literally at the walls from different distances for hours though, was the work (or rather reproduction of work) of Sol Lewitt.  I can’t explain the intricacy of this multi-floor (split by stages in his career) installation, but suffice it to say, some 65 artists lived on-site (seriously, MoCA is that big) for a period of 6 months to recreate some of Lewitt’s great pieces.  We’re talking wall to wall, ceiling to floor, room after room of some of the most complex pencil drawings, some of the brightest color combinations, and some of the most thoughtful art I’ve ever experienced.  Layers upon layers of well-documented and recreate-able pieces (that was Lewitt’s game as I understand it – that the process of creating and recreating, and the experience of seeing a piece that is a result of its location and time as much as anything else is the real art) make for a spectacular afternoon.  Seriously, no excuses, go see it.

MASS MoCA will keep you busy for hours and hours, and luckily, they’ve got a great little cafe on-site for those of you that pass from morning to afternoon within its walls.  Lickety Split filled our bellies with an assortment of burritos, quiche, baked goods, and “the best chicken noodle soup” Meredith has had in her life, and sent us on our way back to Maine happy and full.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

Sol Lewitt Exhibit

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