Interview with Curator Béatrice Gross

May 16, 2016 | By Dorothée Charles
Béatrice Gross. 'Sol LeWitt. Colors,' 2013 at M-Museum Leuven, Belgium. Photo by Cis van Nijverseel

Béatrice Gross is a French independent curator and art critic based in New York. Currently on view at The Drawing Center (New York, 2016), Drawing Dialogues: Selections from the Sol LeWitt Collection is co-curated by Béatrice Gross and Claire Gilman.

Gross has also recently curated Double Eye Poke. Lynda Benglis, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman at kamel mennour (Paris, 2015); and organized a series of Sol LeWitt and LeWitt Collection exhibitions, as Adjunct Curator at Centre Pompidou-Metz (France, 2012-2013), and Guest Co-Curator at M-Museum Leuven (Belgium, 2012).

She is also Editorial and Curatorial Advisor at Mémoire Universelle (Brussels), a cross-disciplinary book series functioning as a subjective encyclopedia. 

Recently, she has co-edited the exhibition catalogue Accrochage (Pinault Collection, Punta della Dogana, Venice, 2016) and has served as Editor and Director of Research of Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings Catalogue Raisonné (Artifex Press, New York, 2013-2015). She is the Editor of Sol LeWitt’s extensive monographic book published by Centre Pompidou-Metz Editions (2012).

Her latest publications include: “Off Frame. Counter-Frame” in Marina Gadonneix. After the Image (Paris: RVB Books, 2015); “The Invisible Man. From Skepticism to Paranoia: A Brief Survey of Predators, Photography, and the Birth of Modern Camouflage,” in Mémoire Universelle, vol. II “Manimalisme” (Brussels: MU, 2014); “From Icon to Text and Back Again: Ines Lechleitner’s Metamorphoses,” in Ines Lechleitner. The Imagines (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014); “Sol LeWitt and the (Re-)Birth of Wall Drawing,” in Auf Zeit/For the Time Being (Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden/Kunsthalle Bielefeld/Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2013).


Dorothée Charles (D.C.): The Sol LeWitt Collection contains 4500 pieces by 750 artists. Can you describe its composition?

Béatrice Gross (B.G.): Sol LeWitt’s status as a seminal conceptual artist is well established. What is less known is that LeWitt was also an avid collector who amassed an extraordinary ensemble that constitutes probably one of the largest artist’s collection of contemporary art.

Its composition is remarkably diverse, covering a wide range of media, from drawing, painting, sculpture, photography to prints, artist’s books, and  music recordings (mostly of the classical kind).

Unsurprisingly, minimal and conceptual art lie at the heart of the LeWitt Collection – with remarkable holdings by William Anastasi, Alighiero Boetti, and Hanne Darboven for instance - but it also reaches backwards and forwards in time to embrace art from other periods and cultures: late 19th Century Japanese prints, vintage photography, and Australian Aboriginal art to name a few.

D.C.: How did Sol LeWitt acquire the artworks assembled in his collection?

B.G.: LeWitt didn’t have a pre-set strategy or designated focus. A natural born collector (already as a child he collected stamps), LeWitt would trade with artists and dealers, exchange gifts, or make straightforward purchases, following the rather incidental circumstances of his artistic career rather than a programmatic method or system.

LeWitt purchased his very first artworks (late Edo-period wood block prints) in the early 1950s, when drafted in the Korean War. The collection, however, truly started a decade later in New York as his emerging mature production began to flourish, and he developed new connections and relationships with fellow artists

As a result, the collection presents an invaluable chronicle of the birth of American and European radical art practices in the 1960s and 1970s, forming an artistic entity arguably no less significant than similar areas of collections in many major museums.

D.C.: How did you select the 120 drawings by 65 artists in the show?

B.G.: Claire Gilman [Senior Curator, The Drawing Center] and I have had the privilege to carefully study and work with the remarkable material that comprises the collection. Its volume and diversity made it quite a daunting task to select the over 100 works that make up our exhibition, the first presentation of the LeWitt Collection in New York in over 30 years.

Our starting point was to focus on the drawn medium (be it on paper or using more unusual materials), at the core of both the artist’s collection and The Drawing Center’s mission. We then privileged American and European minimal and conceptual drawing, the heart of LeWitt’s collection (and own artistic practice), while making room for some of its more unexpected facets, in order to faithfully reveal LeWitt’s relentless curiosity, fierce open mindedness, and continued support of younger or underexposed artists.

D.C.: Drawing Dialogues is the title of the exhibition. How did you work on the "accrochage" of the show?

B.G.: The exhibition examines the parameters of minimal and conceptual drawing through the organizing lens of one of its greatest collectors and practitioners. We have hence decided to also include a dozen works by LeWitt, which we’ve spread throughout the several groupings that structure our presentation: seriality and mathematics; chance and performance; drawing in the expanded field; systems and translation; etc… Notions that, we hope, facilitate a better understanding of common preoccupations linking the selected works but that would remain sufficiently open so that not one interpretation would be imposed upon the beholder. Overall, we’ve aimed at telling the story not only of the dialogue engaged by LeWitt with the art and artists he admired and collected, but also that of an extended community of artists where artworks circulated often as a continuation of conversations and exchanges of ideas.

D.C.: The French composer Sébastien Roux presented a soundscape translating Sol LeWitt's instructions for wall drawings into a layered electronic score. Can you describe the piece?

B.G.: In conjunction with the exhibition, we’ve had the great pleasure to organize in the main gallery two listening sessions of Sébastien Roux’s Inevitable Music. First conceived in 2010, the on-going series makes wall drawing instructions audible through electro-acoustic interpretations, which the composer calls “sonic translations.” Each sound piece is preceded by a pre-recorded voice that describes the score for the music, explaining how each sound piece reflects, by analogy, the content of the drawn piece. For example, similarly to LeWitt’s rigorous, often beautiful, even sometimes humorous use of simple shapes, primary colors, and basic directions, Roux adopts basic elements of electronic music vocabulary (sine waves, saw tooth waves, square waves, and white noise) which he uses as continuous sounds (for straight lines), pulsed sounds (for broken lines), or sounds with vibrato (for not straight lines).


Drawing Dialogues: Selections from the Sol LeWitt Collection
Curated by Claire Gilman, Senior Curator of The Drawing Center, and Béatrice Gross, Guest Curator and LeWitt scholar.

Drawing Dialogues: Selections from the Sol LeWitt Collection includes works by William Anastasi, Carl Andre, Stephen Antonakos, Richard Artschwager, Alice Aycock, Jo Baer, John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Gene Beery, Franco Bemporad, Mel Bochner, Alighiero Boetti, John Cage, Enrico Castellani, Lucinda Childs, Chuck Close, Hanne Darboven, Honoré Daumier, Jan Dibbets, Peter Downsbrough, Sam Durant, Jackie Ferrara, Dan Flavin, Charles Gaines, Gilbert & George, Philip Glass, Dan Graham, Nancy Graves, Hans Haacke, Eva Hesse, Channa Horwitz, Shirazeh Houshiary, Clarence John Laughlin, Ray Johnson, Donald Judd, Alex Katz, On Kawara, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Jannis Kounellis, Jacques Lacombe, Barry Le Va, Sol LeWitt, Jane Logemann, Richard Long, Lee Lozano, Alvin Lucier, Robert Mangold, Mario Merz, Kazuko Miyamoto, Ree Morton, Eadweard Muybridge, Maurizio Nannucci, Giulio Paolini, Henry Pearson, Adrian Piper, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Steve Reich, Dorothea Rockburne, Fred Sandback, Jan Schoonhoven, Robert Smithson, Pat Steir, Allyson Strafella, Old Tutuma Tjapangati, David Tremlett, Yoshiiku Utagawa, Georges Vantongerloo, Bernar Venet, Ruth Vollmer, Hannah Weiner, Lawrence Weiner, and Franz West.

LOCATION: The Drawing Center | Main Gallery, Drawing Room, and The Lab
DATES: April 15 - June 12, 2016
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