Considered to be one of the founders of both Minimalism and Conceptual Art, Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007) was a highly influential sculptor, painter, and printmaker. LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut and attended Syracuse University where he received a B.F.A. in 1949. In 1953, after service in the Korean War, LeWitt moved to New York where he studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. During this time, he did production work for Seventeen magazine and later did graphic design work for architect I. M. Pei. In the early 1960s, LeWitt made paintings and reliefs while supporting himself by working as a receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art.
LeWitt began making three-dimensional works based on the geometric form of the cube in the mid-1960s. To make these works, and then to make similar works on paper, he used systematic methods to make variations of precise grids and modules. In 1968, LeWitt began making wall drawings consisting of pencil lines drawn directly on the wall in geometric arrangements. In these works, as in his modular cube pieces, LeWitt used mathematics, language, and random processes to generate the self-imposed and rigorously mandatory restrictions that provided a basis for his art:
If the artist changes his mind midway through the piece he
compromises the result and repeats past results. The artist’s
will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to
completion. His willfulness may only be ego.”
Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art
His instructions for the creation of wall drawings eventually were executed by teams of assistants. The wall drawings also gradually changed to include color washes in the 1980s and acrylics painted in less-strictly geometric compositions in the 1990s.
LeWitt’s involvement with the making of artist’s books began early and continued throughout his career. In 1964, LeWitt created his first artist’s book, Schematic Drawing for Muybridge II, a piece inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s motion photography of the late 1800s. Subsequent works, such as Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines and Their Combinations (1969) and Incomplete Open Cubes (1974) expand upon the geometric systems LeWitt explored in other media. Many of LeWitt’s books also feature photographic systems. For instance, Brick Wall (1977) includes thirty photographs of the same section of wall at different times of day, while Autobiography (1980) presents hundreds of photos of the artist’s work space in square grids of nine photos each. In addition to his own bookmaking practice, LeWitt co-founded the organization Printed Matter with Lucy Lippard in 1976 to publish and distribute artist’s books.
LeWitt’s work was the subject of comprehensive retrospectives organized by the Museum of Modern Art (1978) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2000). His work can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum, and more.
Books with Sol LeWitt available from Boreas Fine Art:
LeWitt, Sol. Location of Three Geometric Figures. [Brussels] : [Société des Expositions, Palais des Beaux-Arts]. .
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