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- Henrik Håkansson: Cyanopsitta spixii Case Study #001
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- Variations On a Theme by Sol Lewitt and Paula Robison
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- Artists By Year
- Quartet: Paula Robison, Harumi Rhodes, Eric Jacobsen, and Julianne Lee, 2005. Photo: Clements/Howcroft Photography.
- A daily performance, Paula Robison, Harumi Rhodes, Eric Jacobsen, and Julianne Lee, 2005. Photo: Pieranna Cavalchini.
- Variations on a Theme by Sol LeWitt and Paula Robison; back row: Eric Jacobsen, Sooyun Kim, Sol Lewitt, Paula Robison; front row: April Gymski, Reese Inman, Takeshi Arita, Pieranna Cavalchini, 2007.
- Paula Robison and Sol LeWitt, <em>Wall Drawing #1183</em> (detail), 2005. Photo: Clements/Howcroft Photography.
- Sol LeWitt, <em>Wall Drawing #1183</em>, eight bands of color, acrylic paint, 2005. Photo: Clements/Howcroft Photography.
- Sol LeWitt, <em>Wall Drawing #1183</em>, eight bands of color, acrylic paint, 2005. Photo: Clements/Howcroft Photography.
Variations On a Theme by Sol Lewitt and Paula Robison
SEPTEMBER 23 - NOVEMBER 13, 2005
Artist Sol LeWitt, flutist Paula Robison, and contemporary curator Pieranna Cavalchini have been friends since they first met, in the early 1980s, at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. Variations on a Theme brought together works from the realms of music and visual art, and discovered through this interaction a profound and dynamic balance between two internationally renowned artists. Their creative collaboration stemmed from a deep mutual trust and resulted in a fusion of talent, mind, and passion.
As part of this project, once a day a Mozart flute quartet was performed in the Gardner's Special Exhibition Gallery, where LeWitt's wall drawing provided a visual counterpoint to the music. The wall drawing engaged the flatness of the museum wall with nine colors, or tones, that were “played” over and over in unison, pushing against and beyond the physical properties of the room, and expanding the identity of the site. Gardner Artist-in-Residence Robison said:
LeWitt’s work is profoundly musical. He combines discipline and freedom, motion and repose, elegance and mischief with the same sure hand that guided Mozart, and he achieves the same luminous balance.
LeWitt's drawing was brought to life as an idea that was documented by the artist's sketch and a more formal diagram that outlined instructions for its implementation. Takeshi Arita, a trained “drawer”, who travels around the world on commission for LeWitt, worked with two local artists, April Gymiski and Reese Inman to execute the drawing over a period of three weeks.
A musical score by Mozart and a set of instructions for a LeWitt wall drawing are constant—although their physical manifestations are of course subject to change. A performance of a Mozart flute quartet exists as one enactment of an idea that is recorded on paper as musical notation. In a similar way, LeWitt's diagram for a wall drawing is a constant: the physical placement of its implementation may change, but a change in location will never compromise the work's original meaning.
Variations on a Theme thus brought together two artistic constants: one musical, one visual. The conceptual resonance between them is complex and charged—and ultimately found its own universality.
Paula Robison came to the Gardner as an Artist-in-Residence in 2005. She lives outside of Boston.
Sol LeWitt (b. Hartford 1928) has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries, and is represented in the collections of major museums worldwide. He has been the subject of retrospective exhibitions at among others, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; The Kunsthalle, Bern; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. LeWitt's most recent retrospective was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Art in 2000. The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Paula Robison was born in Tennessee to a family of writers, actors, dancers and musicians. Acclaimed for her groundbreaking performances, she is a role model for young flutists everywhere. Ms. Robison’s playing spans a strikingly diverse repertoire. She is renowned for her master classes, original transcriptions and books on the art of flute playing. She has commissioned concertos by Leon Kirchner, Toru Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen, Robert Beaser and Kenneth Frazelle. She has performed with many distinguished artists and organizations, including I Solisti Veneti, Budapest Strings, New York’s Mostly Mozart, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Marlboro and Santa Fe Music Festivals. She was an Artist-in-Residence at the Gardner in 2005.
Miguel Perez-Espejo Cardenas
Brenda van der Merwe
With special appearance by the Borromeo String Quartet.
Musicians listed by instrument, and in order of appearance.
Program Notes on the Mozart Quartets
Quartet for Flute and Strings, in D Major, K. 285
Mozart (Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg; died December 5, 1791, in Vienna) composed four flute quartets. Although his professed distaste for the flute is legendary, it is certainly not evident in the music he wrote for it: flute concertos, quartets for flute and strings, and ravishing flute solos in his late orchestral works. What he really disliked was the personality of the gentleman who commissioned much of his flute music, which was written in Mannheim and Paris between Christmas of 1777 and the summer of 1778. The despised individual was a wealthy amateur, an East Indian Dutchman named De Jean, who wanted four concertos and six quartets. Johann Baptist Wendling, a Mannheim musician who was a friend of Mozart, introduced him to De Jean, who expected “short and simple” works.
On February 14, 1778, Mozart, who felt these quartets distracted him from writing an opera which would have much increased his chances of gaining a good livelihood, wrote home to his father, “De Jean is leaving and, because I have finished only two concertos and three quartets, has sent me 96 gulden evidently supposing this to be half of 200, but he must pay me in full, for that was my agreement, and I can send him the other pieces later.” Justifiably, De Jean had probably discovered that one of the concertos was only an arrangement of Mozart’s earlier oboe concerto. In fact, De Jean had probably heard it performed as it was quite popular in Mannheim, and as is apparent from surviving documents, Mozart had, at this time, completed at most two quartets and only part of another. Mozart wrote his father the reasons for his procrastination: “One is not always in the mood for working. I could, to be sure scribble off things the whole day long, but a composition of this kind goes off into the world, and naturally I do not want to have cause to be ashamed of my name on the title page. Moreover, you know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument I cannot bear.” Leopold Mozart’s letter to his son, rebuked him, predictably, “And you received only 96 instead of 200 gulden? Why? Because you supplied him with only 2 Concertos and only 3 Quartets! How many, then, were you supposed to write for him, since he refused to pay more than half the sum? Why did you tell me a Lie, that you were only expected to make him 3 small, easy little Concertos and a couple of quartets; why did you not heed me when I explicitly wrote, you must first of all, and as soon as possible, serve that Gentleman. Why? So that you could be sure of getting those 200 gulden, for I know human nature better than you do.”
Mozart completed this first quartet in Mannheim on Christmas Day of 1777. It is a compact work, light in spirit and probably well suited to the temperament of De Jean. The flute part is really little different from the first violin part of a string quartet of the time, but it is given a somewhat more conspicuous role of leadership in the ensemble. It contains very lovely idiomatic writing for the flute, and this quartet is the longest, most substantial of the four flute quartets Mozart wrote. The flute, much like the first violin in contemporaneous string quartets, has the dominant part.
The first movement is a spirited Allegro, in fully developed, classical sonata-form with the flute carrying the melodic line. In the center of the movement, there is some use of chromatic lines, and the flute carries on a dialogue with the strings. The next, a beautiful and poetic Adagio, in which the flute sings long, embellished lines above the plucked accompaniment of the strings, is an interlude that leads directly into the jolly final Rondo, Allegretto. This energetic movement is, like the preceding one, simple in its construction and very charming, with brief contrasting episodes, characteristic of a rondo. The noted musicologist Albert Einstein has praised the second movement in this quartet as one “suffused with he sweetest melancholy,” and thus he declares it is “perhaps the most beautiful accompanied flute solo that has ever been written.”
Quartet for Flute and Strings, in G Major, K. 285a
Historical speculation suggests the unlikely possibility that Mozart’s friend, Hoffmeister, acquired the manuscripts of several movements intended for additional flute quartets and issued at least some of them as two movement pieces, perhaps to save time and effort. Most likely, however, is that this quartet was composed at the same time as K. 285 and has two movements because Mozart was eager to complete the work. Since the number of movements he would compose was left to his discretion, he composed only two so he would be able to get paid quickly.
This quartet survives only as a copy in another’s hand dating from 1792, with the two movements juxtaposed to the first of the preceding quartet, and thus for many years, scholars doubted its authenticity. It is the least demanding of the four quartets, and both movements share the same key and triple meter. Yet this quartet is not without charm: it begins with a richly textured Andante, and ends with a Tempo di Minuetto. It is characterized by rhythmic flair and color with sudden sharp dynamic contrasts and speedy runs.
Quartet for Flute and Strings, in C Major, K. 285b
The origins of Quartet K. 285b are mysterious. It was probably not completed for the Mannheim amateur, as were K. 285 and 285a. The C-Major Quartet, K.285b first came to light in a nineteenth-century publication. Its movements are in very different styles, which led to conjecture that it was perhaps put together by a publisher's editor. It is thoroughly charming, and, like 285a, conforms to the “short, simple” style stipulated in the original commission. Tyson recently authenticated it as dating from 1781 or 1782.
This quartet is quite demanding for the flutist, and it seems to make the strings also more equal in true quartet fashion. The first movement, Allegro, written in sonata form, is an elegant flute solo accompanied by the strings in a style that Mozart had abandoned relatively early. The second movement is a set of six beautiful variations on an Andantino theme in which the four instruments are much more nearly equal partners in the classic chamber music style. In the first variation, Mozart relies on triplets. The second variation highlights the viola and the third, the cello. In the fourth variation, Mozart uses an ostinato accompanying figure. The fifth variation is very lyrical, and in the last variation, the theme becomes a spirited waltz. There is a slightly different version of this movement in the great B-flat Serenade, K. 464 for thirteen instruments (but with no flute among them), which Mozart wrote in the early 1780's. It used to be thought that this flute version preceded the one in the Serenade, but it is now believed to be a later arrangement of the Serenade variations, perhaps by another. The third movement is another Allegro.
Some materials from the first movement have concordances in the sketches for The Abduction from the Seraglio dating from 1781, and the second movement is likely an arrangement of the theme and variations from a serenade for thirteen wind instruments (K. 360/370a) from the same period.
Quartet for Flute and Strings, in A Major, K. 298
This charming and elegant quartet uses a number of borrowed melodies in a parodying manner that was then popular. It has been acknowledged that Mozart did not know at least one of the melodies until at least 1786, when he was already well established in Vienna, where he must have used it in a composition for someone he knew. His biographer Maynard Solomon says that on the evidence of his surviving letters, Mozart’s closest friends seem to have included Gottfried Jacquin (1767-1792) the son of a famous botanist, and that this work was very likely written for members of Jacquin’s family or at least for performance at their home. Scholars also assume that it will be renumbered in the near future.
The first movement of this quartet is a set of variations on a rather commonplace little melody, Andantino, that was probably written by Mozart’s friend Franz Anton Hoffmeister, an important flutist-composer-publisher. The flute embellishes the first, the violin the second, and the viola the third variation. Finally, the flute takes up the original theme again, with the cello accompanying it. In the following sprightly Minuet, the melody of the contrasting, central trio section is a French folk song, a Ronde, which begins Il a des bottes, des bottes Bastien. The recurring principal theme of the final Rondo is from Chi mi mostra chi m’addita (“He who shows me my sweet love”), which appears in the opera Le gare generose by Paisiello. Mozart attended the Paisiello opera during his first visit to Prague, and it helps to place the quartet’s date of composition. In his manuscript, Mozart headed the last movement Rondieaoux, a peculiar burlesqued version of the French word rondeau, and then added (in Italian) instructions that the music, Allegretto grazioso, be performed “moderately fast and gracefully, but not too fast, yet not too slow — just so-so — with much charm and expression.” Perhaps this is a kind of joke he might have made with friends, but never would have made for people whom he did not really like.
—Susan Halpern, 2005
Daily Classical Performances, September 25 – November 11, 2005.
At a random moment each day of the exhibition a concert will be held in the gallery.
Introduction to the Exhibition gallery talk
Every Saturday, 12:00 noon
Saturday, September 24, 2005, 1:30pm
Paula Robison and Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art
Wednesdays at noon
October 5 - The Artist’s Workshop: Renaissance and Contemporary Practices with Gardner Curators Alan Chong & Pieranna Cavalchini.
October 12 - Sol Lewitt: Energy Sublime
Andrea Miller-Keller, former Curator of Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Connecticut
October 19 - One Person’s Perspective on Sol Lewitt
Barbara Krakow, Owner, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston
November 9 - Order, Passion, Ritual
Pieranna Cavalchini, curator