Sol Lewitt at Madison Square Park

Installation of Sol Lewitt’s sculpture at Madison Square Park

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I’d been hoping to make it through the summer without having to encounter the all-but-ubiquitous art of Sol LeWitt. Having little patience for “boring enough to be interesting”—well, that’s the way Donald Judd described Mr. LeWitt’s brand of overly cerebral, serial abstraction—I’ve managed to avoid the Met’s rooftop garden and PaceWildenstein’s Chelsea outpost, both of which are showcasing different aspects of the oeuvre (sculpture and wall drawings, respectively). I wasn’t so fortunate on a recent morning spent running errands. Cutting through Madison Square Park, I came across some piles of concrete blocks–construction-site leftovers from one civic project or another.

Or so I thought. Mr. LeWitt’s Curved Wall with Towers and Circle with Towers (both 2005) aren’t much more than what the titles advertise: an abundance of concrete blocks dutifully lined up in simple, schematic structures. As sculpture, they’re non-events: Mr. LeWitt’s bland disregard for variety, vitality and invention forces him to rely on brute physical fact alone to get by. More upsetting is why the Madison Square Park Conservancy invited Mr. LeWitt to impose his thick-as-a-brick aesthetic on what has become one of Manhattan’s most agreeable public spaces. I guess they must have been blinded by his art-world cred. You’ll find more pleasure by taking in the playground at the northeast corner of the park, with its magnificent array of surrounding greenery. Sometimes our lives are not blessed by art.

© 2005 Mario Naves

Originally published in the August 14, 2005 edition of The New York Observer.


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