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<i>Open geometric structure, IV</i>, 1990, 38 x 172 x 38 in / 97,7 x 435,6 x 97,7 cm. Painted wood
<i>Open geometric structure, IV</i>, 1990, 38 x 172 x 38 in / 97,7 x 435,6 x 97,7 cm. Painted wood. (Detail)
Exhibition view
Exhibition view
Exhibition view
Exhibition view
Exhibition view
Exhibition view
<i>Lines in Four Directions</i>, 1971 5,5 x 14 in / 14 x 35,6 cm. Ink on paper
<i>Incomplete Open Cube</i>, 9/11 1974 41⅜ x 41⅜ x 41⅜ in / 105 x 105 x 105 cm. Baked enamel aluminum
<i>5 Unit Cross</i>, 1971, 8 x 22 1/2 x 22 1/2 in / 20,3 x 57,2 x 57,2 cm. Painted wood
<i>Untitled</i>, 1993, 43,4 x 14,9 x 22 in / 110 x 38 x 56 cm. Painted wood
<i>Irregular Tower</i>, 2005, 90 x 45,1 x 45,1 in / 228,8 x 114,8 x 114,8 cm. Enamel steel
<i>Colour gouache with Square with Scribbles</i>, 1990 30 x 22 in / 76 x 56 cm. Gouache on paper
<i>Irregular Form 1999</i>, 60,4 x 92 in / 153,6 x 233,6 cm. Gouache on paper
<i>Parallel Curves</i>, 2000, 29,3 x 22,5 in / 74,6 x 57,2 cm. Gouache on paper
<i>Tangled Bands</i>, 2002, 22,4 x 21 in / 57,1 x 53,3 cm. Gouache on paper
12/09/2015 - 29/10/2015
“Every step around [LeWitt’s] work brings unexpected intersections with infinity.”
Robert Smithson

Sol LeWitt (1928 - 2007) was something of a late starter as an artist. He had studied art in the 1940s and afterward continued privately painting and drawing while working as a graphic designer in New York City, but it was not until well into the 1960’s, when LeWitt was in his mid-30’s, that he began producing and exhibiting a significant body of work. Once he found his artistic stride, however, LeWitt quickly developed into an astonishingly prolific artist, producing thousands of works over the course of the next four decades, and in the process becoming one of the most influential artists in the international vanguard of his time and a major figure even today.

What might be considered LeWitt’s earliest ‘mature’ works were sculptures in a Minimalist visual idiom: isolated forms with smooth, hard finishes. LeWitt, however, soon discerned the dead-end toward which Minimalism’s insistent perfectionism was leading it; the pristine simplicity of a white cube affixed to a white wall could be made neither more pristine nor more simple. In response, LeWitt -- inspired in great measure by the 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge and his studies of human and animal locomotion -- began searching for ”a means of getting away from formalism: to get away from the idea of form as an end and rather to use it as a means.” Not just shape, and not just a single shape, but rather “a language and a narrative of shapes” that would be determined by a pre-established system or ‘concept’ -- hence the term ‘Conceptual Art’, the movement which LeWitt, in both his work and his writings, did so much to develop.

In order to be able to activate and utilize “form” as a “means,” LeWitt elected to work with basic shapes, such as cubes (whether solid, open or skeletal) and lines, that might function as modules, elements that are at once independent and interdependent, a visual lexicon always subject to LeWitt’s artistic syntax and grammar. By the same token, LeWitt’s ‘concepts’ were generally quite simple (“ludicrously simple,” in LeWitt’s own estimation), consisting, for instance, of simple numeric progressions or sequences of color combinations. The visible, tangible, results, however -- the delicate lattices, the muscular installations, the mind-boggling and genre-breaching series of permutations --  were not simple at all, but rather beautifully complex and complexly beautiful, delights for both the intellect and the eye, often achieving what Smithson referred to as “intersections with infinity”.

Throughout his career, drawing was central to LeWitt’s practice, a daily and even obsessive activity that ranged from his delicate and highly personal works on paper to the numerous ‘wall drawings’ for which he became so well-known. Basic to LeWitt’s drawing methodology is his “Lines in Four Directions” -- a sort of template or tool-kit with which to develop far-reaching drawing systems, and a motif which LeWitt would employ again and again in different media, formats and scales throughout his career. LeWitt’s drawing practice also extended to “gouaches” -- painted works of gouache on paper, of a wide chromatic range and variety of shapes. LeWitt only began to produce such works in 1986, upon his return to the USA after residing in Italy for an extended period. Nonetheless, he would go on to create thousands of gouaches during the rest of his life. Taken together, these works constitute a major (and as yet not sufficiently examined) part of his overall body of work. Their formal concerns simultaneously inform and are informed by his work in other media (especially but not exclusively his wall-drawings), serving as a kind of time-line for his artistic concerns during this long and fruitful period of his career. They are among his most personal creations, produced while working alone each morning his studio in rural Chester, Connecticut, even while dozens of his ‘assistants’ were executing his celebrated wall drawings in venues around the world. They range from meditative to bold, enigmatic to joyous, hypnotic to entrancing. They too, in their own way, offer their own “unexpected intersections with infinity.”

George Stolz
September, 2015

Selected bibliography:

Batchelor, D. Sol LeWitt: Structures 1962 - 1993, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1993, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.

Baume, N. Incomplete Open Cubes, Wadsworth Atheneum, May 2001.University Press Group Ltd. Hartford, Connecticut.

Garrels, G. Sol LeWitt, A Restrospective, SFMoMA , February 19h – May 30th 2000, SFMoMA, San Francisco.

Gross, B. Sol LeWitt, Centre Pompidou-Metz, April 18th –September 2nd 2013, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Hickey, D. Sol LeWitt: Structures 1962 – 2003, Pace Gallery, February 27th – March 27th 2004. Pace Gallery, New York.

Legg, A. Sol LeWitt, MoMA, 1978-1979, MoMA, New York.

Kaiser,F.W. Sol LeWitt, Drawings 1958-1992, Haags Gemeentemuseum, October 30th – December 13th 1992, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Werner, C. Sol LeWitt: The Well-Tempered Grid, Williams College Museum, September 15th – December 9th 2012, Williams College Museum, Williamstown.