Lewitt.

Works by Sol Lewitt (1928 - 2007)

I will refer to the kind of art in which I am involved as conceptual art. In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.

  • Sol Lewitt

Lewitt's early conceptual works are dominated by a preoccupation with exploring and explicating simple geometric form.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 4/5 (1974) 346.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 4/5 (1974) 346.2011

It is as if, having discovered the square through some combination of idle play and meticulous alchemical experimentation, a painfully messy, manual search for possibilities and variations leads him on to an hermetic proof for the cube, and finally on to the multi-cubic structure.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 5/6 (1974) 347.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 5/6 (1974) 347.2011

The Incomplete Open Cubes (above, left, right) explicate 122 possible variations of the edges of an interconnected, incomplete cube.

There is an 'Ikea' look to these structural works. They are prefabricated, perfectly finished. The eye, in search of a gesture or the hand of an artist, tends to slips off, disappointed.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 7/21 (1974) 349.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Incomplete open cube 7/21 (1974) 349.2011

Instead, you may be left with the hint of annoyance and lashings of curiousity associated with a puzzle or mind-game.

Works with an aesthetic sensibility akin to that of a Rubik's Cube make you look at them in terms of a puzzle, in terms of their ideas, their concepts.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Pyramid (2005) L2010.52
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Pyramid (2005) L2010.52

In Lewitt's multi-cubic structures, like Pyramid (left), the exhaustive, obsessive exploration of the square extends into real space. Lewitt can see cubes everywhere, applying them in forms that begin to recall monumental buildings in real space or city skylines.

The alchemist, having discovered the Philosopher's Stone, sets about uncovering hidden orders in things.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Three-part variations on three different kinds of cubes - elements for serial projects: 2 2 3 (4 parts) (1975) 345.2011.a-f
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Three-part variations on three different kinds of cubes - elements for serial projects: 2 2 3 (4 parts) (1975) 345.2011.a-f

The title of Three Part Variations On Three Different Kinds of Cubes (left) references Bach's Three Part Invention (which you can listen to on YouTube).

Lewitt's preoccupation with rigorously derived, partially mathematical systems of variation mirrors of contrapuntal music, particularly that of Bach.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #337: Two part drawing. The wall is divided vertically into two parts. Each part is divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. 1st part: Lines in four directions, one direction in each quarter. 2nd part: Lines in four directions, superimposed progressively. (1971) 350.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #337: Two part drawing. The wall is divided vertically into two parts. Each part is divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. 1st part: Lines in four directions, one direction in each quarter. 2nd part: Lines in four directions, superimposed progressively. (1971) 350.2011

Subtle references and parallels to the intricate systems underlying orchestral music, ever present in Lewitt's structural works, are particularly evident in another body of his works, his Wall Drawings.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #338: Two part drawing. The wall is divided vertically into two parts. Each part is divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. 1st part: Lines in four directions, one direction in each quarter. 2nd part: Lines in four directions, superimposed progressively. (1971) 351.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #338: Two part drawing. The wall is divided vertically into two parts. Each part is divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts. 1st part: Lines in four directions, one direction in each quarter. 2nd part: Lines in four directions, superimposed progressively. (1971) 351.2011

WHEN YOU GO TO SOL YOU SEE MUSIC / TO SOL WHO KNOWS THAT ALL ART ASPIRES TO THE CONDITION OF MUSIC

  • Carl Andre (Concrete Poem)
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #303: Two part drawing. 1st part: circle, square, triangle, superimposed (outlines). 2nd part: rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, superimposed (outlines) (1977) 354.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #303: Two part drawing. 1st part: circle, square, triangle, superimposed (outlines). 2nd part: rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, superimposed (outlines) (1977) 354.2011

These works are made by installers working according to a set of instructions composed by Lewitt, almost like a musical score.

The instructions for each Wall Drawing are more or less precise. Each installation of a Wall Drawing is uniquely imbued with the lines and iterative gestures that mark a specificity of interpretation; a time, place and location.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #23: drawing series A on aluminium box. One series on each face (1969) 355.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #23: drawing series A on aluminium box. One series on each face (1969) 355.2011

Just like performances of sheet music, Wall Drawings can be performed at multiple locations at the same time, are always considered the work of their composer, but are often particularly valued for the interpretation of their performers.

Possibly his most influential body of work, the Wall Drawings permit approaches from a multiplicity of angles.

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room) (2003) 352.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room) (2003) 352.2011

Like Bach's music, the drawings leave themselves open to being approached in terms of their instructions (as in the study of a musical score), in terms of their performance (as in a musician interpreting the music in playing it) and in terms of an audience (as in a listener, listening either to the performance, or once the installation is complete, the recording of one).

AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room) (2003) 352.2011
AGNSW collection Sol LeWitt Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room) (2003) 352.2011

Over time, Lewitt's rigorous derivations and explorations allowed him to develop an internally consistent but increasingly broad and expressive visual language.

The possibilities and variations inherent in the line, the square, the cube, the arc and the combination of simple colours eventually facilitate the colourful, vibrant, even joyous designs found in some of his later works like this wall drawing.

Art Set by Jerry Zylberberg

Jerry is a student majoring in Fine Arts and Visual Culture online at Curtin University. His artistic and critical practice is preoccupied with both contemporary and historical still photography. Jerry has a professional background in IT and spends some of his spare time working with a community orchestra as an amateur sound engineer and programme annotator.