Art21 Extended Play

Exclusive | Robert Mangold and Sol LeWitt, Security Guards at MoMA

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Artist Robert Mangold walking past a Sol LeWitt sculpture on his upstate New York property.
Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2013. Cinematography by Joel Shapiro.

“Art feeds off art…and artists feed off artists.”

In this week’s Exclusive, artist Robert Mangold, speaking from his upstate New York studio in 2011, explains how his friendship with the late Sol LeWitt and experience working as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art influenced his approach to making art. Mangold worked at MoMA in the early 1960s, when guarding the museum’s exhibitions was a common occupation for artists and poets, and it was here that he first met LeWitt (as well as Robert Ryman). LeWitt became one of Mangold’s closest friends.

Mangold says this of his security guard days:

“To come in every day and be a part of the collection was great. You got to stand around and look at people looking at art and look at art. I can remember going and seeing great paintings, contemporary paintings, being in a hurry to get home and get in my studio while that was still fresh in my mind, while that intensity, that emotional high was still there, so that I could look at my painting and say, does that have any of that or not? I’d like there to be some of that in there.”

Our theme on the blog this month is hindsight and this idea of looking back seems an important component of Mangold’s studio practice. In a segment of the interview that was cut from today’s Exclusive, Mangold talks about being inspired by the works of earlier artists such as Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso. Yet it was artists like Barnett Newman, who was exhibiting at MoMA in the 1960s, that more directly influenced Mangold. As the artist told Art21 in Season 6 of Art in the Twenty-First Century, he finds inspiration in not only “the culture that comes from the history of art” but also the “culture of our time.”

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Artists Sol LeWitt and Robert Mangold.
Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2013. Image courtesy Robert Mangold.

Although this Exclusive focuses on Mangold’s friendship with LeWitt, it takes us back to New York’s small but vibrant downtown art scene of the 1960s. Mangold had no shortage of artist-friends with whom to share ideas. He paints a picture of the community, saying:

“There was a group of us who had studios on or near the Bowery.  Sylvia [Plimack-Mangold] and I were in a building that Robert Ryman was in and Lucy Lippard. Sol LeWitt was around the corner. Eva Hesse across the street. We would all visit each other’s studios. Mel Bochner wasn’t nearby but we would see him quite often. And Carl Andre.”

Hear more from Mangold in the following Exclusive: