Thursday, September 24, 2020

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Bloom Named Award Finalist for Biography on Sol LeWitt

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Lary Bloom Photo courtesy of Lary Bloom

Lary Bloom (Photo courtesy of Lary Bloom )

In 2010, Lary Bloom was given a lifetime achievement award from the Connecticut Center for the Book, which is the state affiliate of the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. This year, he’s being recognized by the organization as a finalist in the nonfiction category for his most recently published work, a biography titled Sol LeWitt, A Life of Ideas.

“My lifetime wasn’t over, they discovered,” Bloom says humorously, while acknowledging, “It’s wonderful to have that recognition.”

A prolific writer in several different literary genres, it is Bloom’s writings about Connecticut that have earned him accolades from the organization.

Lisa Comstock, who heads up the Connecticut Center for the Book program, says that the lifetime achievement award “speaks to the high regard he has been given over the years.”

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Bloom, 76, is a longtime resident of Connecticut. Although he currently resides in New Haven, he lived in Chester for 30 years and remains connected to the community in many ways, including as a member of the synagogue Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

He is well known as the former editor of Northeast, The Hartford Courant’s Sunday magazine, a position he held for 20 years. A compilation of his monthly columns in Connecticut Magazine on the people and places of Connecticut was published as a book, Lary Bloom’s Connecticut Notebook, in 2005.

The writings in the book span several topics including “Connecticut traditions and lore, people and politics, big and small business, history and the arts,” according to the back cover.

Bloom says that it “shows a different side of Connecticut than is generally thought of…Around the country, they think of Greenwich and the Gold Coast. There is a greedy side of Connecticut and there is also a side that shows greater energy and imagination.

“I also am, if nothing else, a storyteller. Stories were always important to me and personal stories were ways to connect people to the larger picture,” he adds.

The story of world-renowned American artist Solomon “Sol” LeWitt, who helped establish both minimalism and conceptual art, was brought to life in the book for which Bloom is now a finalist.

Sol LeWitt, A Life of Ideas was published by Wesleyan University Press in spring 2019 and offers an intimate portrayal of LeWitt, who was born in Hartford and resided in Chester in the late ‘80s before his death in New York in 2007.

The 374-page biography of LeWitt took Bloom 10 years to finish and is based on extensive research and interviews with more than 100 people who knew LeWitt well. Bloom himself was a close friend of the artist when they both lived in Chester.

“I used to go over there into his studio, and we would talk about politics and we’d talk about history,” said Bloom. “We talked about anything but art.”

Bloom recounts a story about visiting LeWitt in his art studio in Chester and asking him about a design posted behind his desk, for a ceiling in the reading room of the public library in the industrial city of Reggio Emilia, Italy.

“He said, ‘Maybe you’ll see it when you go to Italy this fall,’” said Bloom.

With a crew of painters scheduled to finish LeWitt’s design before he himself would arrive in Italy later that fall, “…it occurred to me as I was leaving, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to see an artist’s finished work before he sees it,’” Bloom said.

LeWitt’s approach to art as a “designer, architect, composer, the idea person…That was the controversial thing. How can you be an artist if you don’t finish the work?’” Bloom said.

A desire to share the artist’s concept that “the brain is more important than the hand” was a main driver for Bloom in writing the biography.

“I also wanted to inspire people to understand what really counts, support of others, especially in an ego-driven world. We have this picture of an artist in the studio alone and to a large extent that’s true, but here’s a guy who went way outside the boundaries of that studio both in terms of hiring young artists to do the finished work, but also in promoting the work of others,” said Bloom.

Bloom says that in the biography, he committed to showing the LeWitt’s unique personality, especially in his support of women artists in a field dominated by men.

“It was so rare to have a male artist promote the work of women in those days,” said Bloom.

LeWitt’s integrity was also evidenced by turning down lucrative commissions if he didn’t agree with a company’s standards.

“My little commitment was to try to show this in a way that might inspire other to take on some of the attributes of Sol’s personalities and standards,” said Bloom.

Asked whether LeWitt, who was intensely private, would have approved of the biography, Bloom said, “there were exceptions to his rules [for privacy]…There were exceptions and that is what made him a complex man.”

The 2020 Connecticut Book Awards will be held virtually at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15. Winners of all award categories will be announced at the event.


Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at e.reinhart@shorepublishing.com.

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