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jpg Sol LeWitt: Your mind is exactly at that line Detail of Wall drawing 604H

jpg Sol LeWitt: Your mind is exactly at that line Detail of Wall drawing #1091 and Non-geometric form (splotch)

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In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work

- Sol LeWitt, Paragraphs on conceptual art 1967

Sol LeWitt: Your mind is exactly at that line presents 40 years of the artist’s work, ranging from his early three-dimensional objects to late wall drawings. A pioneering voice in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s in America, Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) forged a new way of thinking about art. For him, the idea was paramount. His work uses systems of repetition and patterning and stems from the premise that it is the concept that counts, regardless of whether it is realised.

In response to the personal and expressive gestures of abstract expressionist painting, which dominated New York in the 1950s, LeWitt developed a visual language based on basic principles of geometry with the aim of being, in his words, ’as objective as possible’. Rather than imagery or narrative allusions, LeWitt chose a square, for instance, because it was the ’least emotive’ of forms.

LeWitt’s wall drawings and structures are made from written instructions, highlighting the importance of the idea over the artist’s hand or ‘mark’. This radical system of authorship is fundamentally collaborative. LeWitt likened his process to that of a composer. Not unlike a musical score, which is subject to the subtle variations of each new performance, his instructions embrace interpretation and chance in the materialisation of the work.

This exhibition also represents LeWitt’s close ties with Australia. Works by Indigenous artists Emily Kam Ngwarray and Gloria Tamerre Petyarre have been drawn from his private collection, as has a comprehensive selection of archival material that maps the many relationships and projects he engaged in here.

Questions and activities

  • What does it mean to create an artwork that is ‘as objective as possible’? How is this evident in LeWitt’s practice? Use artworks from the exhibition to illustrate your response.
  • In your opinion is the square the ‘least emotive’ of forms? Plan a series of wall drawing using a geometric shape of your choice as a starting point.
  • LeWitt compared his process to that of a composer who creates a score that is then played by various musicians, who will each interpret it differently with each performance. Do you think this is an appropriate comparison? Consider, in particular, the relationships between the idea and the outcome.
  • Research the working relationship between LeWitt and John Kaldor. Study LeWitt’s two Kaldor Public Art Projects – the first in 1977 installed at the Art Gallery of NSW and the second in 1988 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Compare and contrast the two installations and discuss how LeWitt transformed two interiors spaces in these major arts institutions.