Afternoon at Mass MoCA

Over the weekend, I drove west on the exciting Route 2, full of fog, ice, and twists, to the city of North Adams to visit my friend Emily and her husband Brian. Emily and I lived on the same floor freshmen year of college (and Brian lived in the building) and then again shared an apartment senior year. Now, she and Brian are both teachers and she runs the fabulous food blog, Relishments, in her spare time.  Hi, Em!

While I was there, we visited Mass MoCA, which is not, as I first mistakenly thought, a fancy type of coffee chocolate drink but instead a fancy contemporary art museum located in a sprawling old mill complex.

Mass MoCA!

Contemporary art, especially large-scale installations, is probably my most favorite art. I love trying to figure out what the artist was saying or figuring out what I feel about a piece (which is usually very different than what the artist was trying to express). And often, I revel in the sheer oddness or zaniness of the pieces.

The Cartographer's Conundrum

A gallery overlooking the flying pews contained this lovely art quilt.  The quilt itself is a pre-Civil War Drunkard’s Path quilt, repurposed by Sanford Biggers.

Quilt #9 (Star Chamber)

One gallery contained a giant fish trap made from found wood and beat-up furniture.

Nu Colossus

Another contained giant orange snowmen, made from foam, capacitors, and mango seeds

Mango Tourists

My favorite three (three!) floors of MoCA were the Sol LeWitt retrospective (the link leads to the museum’s Sol LeWitt exhibit floor plan so you can see how the exhibit was laid out). The bottom floor had walls drawn with thousands of lines, some in wild tangles and others drawn to grid preciseness. The second floor (and my favorite) had walls painted with grids, boxes, and swoops of color. Their edges were razor-straight and the color had so much depth.

Wall Drawing 684A

Wall Drawing 793B

Wall Drawing 692

The colors used on the third floor were both louder in hue but also flatter. On the second floor, color was layered and stippled with cloth but on the third floor, it was painted on, one-dimensional and brightly assaulting.

Wall Drawing 11121

Wall Drawing 1152

There also were a few pieces that explored the relationship between matte and shiny paint.

Wall Drawing 821

Wall Drawing 822

All in all, I loved it. I loved LeWitt’s sense of vibrancy and exuberance within such tightly controlled parameters. I loved the colors used for the bright pieces and I loved the sense of time and effort that went into each piece. Each piece was painted right onto the wall, which I also thought was really neat. Also on some pieces, there was a little diagram (again, drawn directly onto the wall) explaining how each figure was to be drawn. It was clear, orderly, and logical while being lively.

Mass MoCA is a fantastic museum; I wanted to bring my sleeping bag and move in.  And so many of LeWitt’s work provided quilting ideas – both in block shape and design and quilting patterns. And a quick Google search showed me that I’m not the only one who thinks this way!

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2 thoughts on “Afternoon at Mass MoCA

  1. I know I’m biased, but I love this a lot.
    Did you take all these on your phone? Clearly I was paying a lot of attention. They look fabulous! You definitely have an eye for what makes a good picture. I am so impressed.

    So glad you were able to make your way west. We’ll have to do it again some time!

    • Thanks, Em! Yup, these are all from my phone. I’m always telling myself that I should bring my camera but that’s just one more bag to carry/thing to stuff in a pocket. And the phone, when the light is good (as it was on Saturday), takes a decent photog.

      I’d like to take a class/get a fancier camera at some point and learn more about composition and all that, because I do enjoy it.

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