1928 - 2007
Considered to be one of the founders of both Minimalism and Conceptual Art, Sol LeWitt 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 among other things he did production work for Seventeen magazine and graphic design work for architect I. M. Pei.
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 precise variations of grids and modules. In 1968, LeWitt began making wall drawings consisting of pencil lines drawn directly on the wall in geometric arrangements. The wall drawings typically were nothing more than detailed instructions which were executed by teams of assistants.
In all of these these works LeWitt used mathematics, language, and random processes to generate the self-imposed and rigorously mandatory restrictions that provided a basis for his work: “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.
LeWitt’s involvement with the making of artist books began early and continued throughout his career. In 1964, LeWitt created his first artist book, Schematic Drawing for Muybridge II, a piece inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s motion photography from 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 many others.