Sol LeWitt was born in 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut. His parents were of Russian-Jewish descent. LeWitt attended Syracuse University and received a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in 1949. He then moved to New York City, where he worked as a graphics designer. His interest in typography shows in what are called his "bookworks." These are inexpensive books that communicate his ideas and works to a non-art audience.
LeWitt worked at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, first as a night receptionist and later at the museum's Information and Sales Desk. These two jobs hold fond memories for LeWitt because, in 1978, his retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art. He taught in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art's art school from 1964 to 1967, at Cooper Union from 1967 to 1968, at the School of Visual Arts from 1969 to 1970, and at New York University in 1970.
In the 1960s, LeWitt was employed at an architectural firm headed by I. M. Pei. LeWitt's friends at this time were Lucy Lippard and Michael Kirby, art critics, and Dan Flavin, Tom Doyle, and Eva Hesse, sculptors. This group thought that art needed a more scientific and rational approach.
In the 1960s, LeWitt worked with simple geometric structures. In one such structure, titled "Serial Project I (ABCD), 1968," his forms were open and closed modular units arranged on a four-part grid in every possible variation. These right-angled sculptures connected him with the style called minimalism, but he always refused to be identified as such.
LeWitt was the first artist to use the term, "conceptual art," which refers to the concept or idea of art being the most important aspect of the work. Because of his early use of the term and the nature of his work in the late 1960's, LeWitt is often called the "father of conceptual art."
In order to prove his conviction regarding the importance of the idea in art, LeWitt made proposals and executed several of them, in which the end products of the works were non-visible. One of these projects is a buried metal cube in the ground in Holland, titled "Box in the Hole, 1968." This piece was documented by a series of still photographs, but the location of the work has never been disclosed. LeWitt announced that he had buried the cube so we know that the work exists. Because we can't locate it, we can't visit it, we can't see it, we can't study it, and no collector or museum can buy it, since they can't find it. The only way that anybody can experience it is to think about the fact that a cube is buried in Holland. Since we all experience it equally, it could be the first truly democratic work of art because it could never be owned as a work of art, and can be possessed only as an idea. As an idea, anyone can own it, and in fact everybody who knows about it, including you, owns it.
LeWitt had his first exhibition at the Dawn Gallery, New York City, in 1966. In 1968, at the same gallery, LeWitt exhibited a series of cubes in white enameled metal. The working sketches, computation sheets, and diagrams for the cubes were included in the exhibition. These works explored the possible variations or permutations possible with this very simple geometric form, and as such the ideas for the various cubes where at least as important, if not more important, than the cubes themselves.
Also in 1968, LeWitt was drawing on walls. These wall drawings are based on the systems that are related to the site. From the dimensions of the wall, a given number of possibilities are determined within spaces related to the physical reach of the artist. The number of possible marks is determined by a relation between the space and the exhaustion of the system.
By drawing directly on a gallery wall, LeWitt has taken a further step in denying the existence of art as an object. The specifications for the drawings may be in the form of drawings or in terms of explicit written instructions. The person executing the work might be LeWitt himself, or someone else. This doesn't matter as long as no decisions are made in the course of the realization of the work.
LeWitt's wall drawings are usually executed by other people. They are not the end product or the work of art because they are only temporary. When an exhibit is finished and it becomes necessary to repaint the wall, the work is gone, at least for the moment. Anyone with the instructions could remake the drawings on another wall, in another place, simply by following LeWitt's written instructions. These drawings have been a cornerstone in Lewitt's long and successful career and are found all over the world. His recent retrospective exhibit, which began in San Francisco in late 1999, and has traveled to Chicago and New York Whitney Museum, features a number of the wall drawings as well as his sculptural work.
In an earlier exhibit, LeWitt was honored in 1978, by becoming the first Minimalist and Conceptualist artist to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.
LeWitt lived on Manhattan's lower east side in the same loft he occupied in 1960, until is death in 2007.
At one time on the OSU Campus, there was installed a LeWitt sculpture that was built according to his instructions near the Wexner Center, in 1990. It is located to the south of Arps Hall on 17th Avenue, just west of High Street. Read more ...
Page author: C.A.