Monday, August 9, 2010

Western Mass(achusetts)

So, I've been living and working in the Pioneer Valley for over a month now, and I'm actually liking it very much. I'm not entirely comfortable with how much I'm driving (from a financial and an environmental standpoint) and I have no friends (if you're in the Five Colleges area and want to be my friend, let me know!), but I am kind of a loner anyhow so that doesn't actually bother me much (it bothers me a bit how little my friendlessness bothers me, but that's getting silly).

Anyhow, this weekend my mom and my sister came to visit me on Saturday and we went for a nice bike ride and did some shopping in Northampton and had a slightly excessive lunch. After a very good tired sleep I woke up on Sunday with no particular plan besides possibly building a window seat in my bedroom, but I really need to price out foam and cushions before I can make that a reality. So instead I gave myself twenty minutes to tidy up the apartment, then I got in my car and drove to MASS MoCA.

MASS MoCA is a modern art museum in almost the very northwesternmost corner of the state, in North Adams, about an hour and a half away from me. The museum is housed in old mill buildings, and there is a lot of exposed brick and industrial-looking business, and honestly it would be a pretty cool place if they just let you wander around the old buildings! But instead they've filled it up with modern art, which is also cool.

This was one of my favorite pieces I saw - it's called Re-projections: Hoosac, and it's by Tobias Putrih. It's made of hundreds (thousands?) of pieces of monofilament fishing line strung across this very long gallery and lit by a spotlight maybe two-thirds of the way down. It's tunnel-shaped, and it slopes, so you can get right inside it like these people are doing here. It's incredibly disorienting! Turns out I love large, disorienting pieces of modern sculpture. Although it's completely different in execution, walking inside the tunnel reminded me of some of the Richard Serra pieces I saw at the retrospective at MoMA a few years ago.

I also really enjoyed the huge Sol Lewitt retrospective. I'd never heard of Lewitt before (in this respect he is like most artists of the last 100 years, I'm afraid) but he was a conceptual/minimalist artist, and most of the things on display at MASS MoCA are huge wall drawings/paintings. Lewitt would conceive the drawings, and then draftspeople would execute them. Some of the drawings I saw were never executed in his lifetime, which is kind of interesting.

Here is a video of the installation being, um, installed:

SO COOL. Would it be blasphemous for me to decorate my new coffee table ($6 at Goodwill! Ugly!) in the style of a Sol Lewitt drawing? I'm not sure I care. That video makes me want to get out the masking tape, big time.

When I saw the paintings and read the label copy and understood what they were, I thought, "He's like John Cage, but for visual art!" But I guess it is still even a little stranger to do this for visual art; most composers intend for other artists to interpret their work, but most visual artists do most of the execution of their work themselves. Though I can think of exceptions on both sides of that equation.

On the way home a bald eagle flew right over my car as I crossed a bridge. The Mohawk Trail (Route 2) is a stunning drive, and I can't wait to do it in the Fall. I stopped in Shelburne Falls, which is an adorable little town with a garden on an old trolley bridge and interesting geological features. Then I drove the rest of the way home along the Connecticut River, but I skipped the interstate so I was on nice little secondary roads most of the time. I drove past tobacco farms! I didn't even know there were tobacco farms in Massachusetts (though I knew there were in Connecticut, so I guess why not). First I noticed the strange barns where they dry the leaves, which seemed vaguely familiar (either from seeing them in Virginia or from photos, I don't know) and eventually I put two and two together.

Anyway, an excellent (non-lazy) Sunday.


grahams said...

Was the Leonard Nimoy exhibit still there?

Kyle said...

Yes, it was still there, but it didn't really do anything for me. Have you seen it? To me most of the photos were either goofy or creepy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, do your coffee table like Lewitt!! That would be awesome!