Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt is born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1928. After his studies at Syracuse University (1945 — 49) he moves to New York and attends the Cartoonist and Illustrators School which later becomes the School of Visual Arts. From 1955 to 1960 he works as a graphic artist, at first for the architect Leoh Ming Pei and later as graphic designer for a private company. He continues his profession as designer at the Museum of Modern Art where he works from 1960 to 1965. There he also gets to know Lucy L. Lippard, Robert Mangold, Robert Ryman, and Dan Flavin.

LeWitt’s starts to work as an artist in 1962 with first relief sculptures fashioned in geometric forms (OBJECTIVITY, 1962; LOOK, LOOK 1962). Between 1963 and 1964 his first three-dimensional works emerge that are still clearly influenced by the Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Constructivism. He also begins to work at the Museum of Arts School (1964 — 67). Starting in 1965, he creates his first modular works – mostly barred cage-like structures consisting of repetitious, open and closed cubes made of wood or metal. The modular systems are first covered with black, later with white lacquer and are arranged into complex spatial installations that engage the walls as well as the floors (Floor Structure, Black, 1965; Modular Wall Piece with Cube, 1965; 47 Three-part Variations of Three Different Kinds of Cubes, 1967). With these works LeWitt, along with Donald Judd or Carl Andre, is considered a representative of Minimal Art, aiming to present basic principles of perception through apparently logical, rational strategies of simplification.

LeWitt expands these artistic concepts through complex considerations on the creation and reception of art. From his first works he derives the idea of Conceptual Art and publishes a text entitled »Paragraphs on Conceptual Art« in 1967 (Artforum, 10/1967). He understands sense perception as pendant and not as representative of a serial concept that may be expressed in widely differing ways. This approach thus supports pluralist experimentation without unified or singular solutions, but rather with innumerable variants. LeWitt cannot be considered, as has often been the case, a representative of rationalist concepts of art. Rather, his works are close to the critiques of rationalism by Paul Feyerabend and Michel Foucault.

Later groups of works show variations of cubes in open and closed modular structures (Variations on a Cube (Forms Derived From a Cube), 1984) and eventually lead to the large-sized modular forms of the »Concrete Block Structures,« that remind of basic architectonic structures such as walls, stairs, and houses (Four-Part Piece 4:4 Walls forming a Square, 1992; Walls (Berlin), 1996, Irregular Double Negative Pyramide, 1998).

After 1968 LeWitt creates wall drawings and paintings, and some of these projects are done by his assistants at the exhibition site, according to his instructions. Geometrically arranged, monumental color areas, always painted in the same four India ink colors: yellow, red, blued, and grey are directly applied to the wall of the exhibition site in transparent layers with rolled cotton rags and rotating movements of the hand. Again the systematic approach is important, determining the sequence of colors of each stripe and thus the color structure of the painting as a whole. In Continuous Forms with Color and Goauche Superimposed (1988) paint is applied in color areas with multiple angles. For his mostly ephemeral Wall Drawings the artist offers certificates that can be purchased and are understood as conceptual directions for copying. Moreover, the artist books LeWitt designs are conceived primarily as inexpensive and easily affordable works for a broad spectrum of buyers.

LeWitt teaches at the Cooper Union (1967/68), at the School of Visual Arts (1969/70) and at the art department of New York University (1970/71). First solo exhibitions take place in Krefeld (1969), in Oxford (1974), in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Otterlo. In 1978 retrospectives in the large museums of the United States and Canada (New York, Montreal, Chicago, La Jolla) honor his work. A comprehensive exhibition of his drawings travels to numerous museums between 1992 and 1994.

Sol LeWitt lives and works in New York.

Selected Literature

Sol Lewitt, Concrete Block Structures: hg. v. Susanna Singer, Mailand 2002

Sol LeWitt. Structures (1962 — 1993): Ausst.-Kat. Museum Villa Stuck München u.a., 1993

Sol LeWitt, Catalogue Raisonné of the Wall Drawings 1984 — 1992: Bern 1992

Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawings 1968 — 1984: Ausst.-Kat. Stedelijk Museum, hg. v. Susanne Singer, Amsterdam 1984

Sol LeWitt. Prints 1970 — 1986: Ausst.-Kat. Tate Gallery, London 1986

Sol LeWitt, Books 1966 — 1990: Ausst.-Kat. Portikus, Frankfurt/M. 1990

Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014

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