PRINT September 2008

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Prudence Peiffer on Sol LeWitt at Mass MoCA

“I THINK THE CAVEMEN CAME first.” So responded Sol LeWitt when once asked if he was indeed the “originator of wall drawings,” as curator Alicia Legg had claimed in a catalogue essay for his 1978 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. LeWitt, who passed away last April at the age of seventy-eight, was a giant of Conceptualism—an artist who obsessively produced work, from cube sculptures to artist’s books, addressing modernism’s systematic irrationality. Yet perhaps richest in historical implication were his wall drawings. Even as LeWitt insisted on the term drawings rather than murals to avoid the “weight of history,” his witty evocations of Lascaux—the name for both the French complex of caves and LeWitt’s preferred brand of acrylic paint—also deliberately emphasized the past. And underlying their making is the fact that some of his earliest drawings were studies of Piero

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