SOL LEWITT by Katie McCarthy
Born September 9th, 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut. His parents were Eastern European immigrants. His father, who was a doctor and an inventor passed when he was six years old; after that, he went to live with his mother (a nurse) and his Aunt in Connecticut. He often would draw on the wrapping paper at his aunt’s grocery store, and his mother enrolled him in art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. He got his BFA from Syracuse University. Soon after graduating, he was drafted into the Korean War, where he also created posters and bought artwork, that later became part of his extensive collection, in Japan. After his time in the war he moved to New York City, and studied at the Cartoonist and Illustrators School (renamed to School of Visual Arts). He worked for Seventeen Magazine, and also was hired as a graphic designer for I.M. Pei’s architecture firm. Next, he worked at the Museum of Modern Art. While there he met other famous artists: Dan Flavin, Robert Ryman, Lucy Lippard and Robert Mangold. Additionally, he was introduced to the work of Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Robert Rauschenberg while there. Later in life, Lewitt moved to Italy, and once again his work was newly inspired, and he began experimenting with new mediums such as ink and color washes, in style with the local art. Lewitt eventually moved back to New York City, where he died in 2007.
LEWITT AND MINIMALISM/CONCEPTUALISM
Lewitt had a very conceptualist mindset, in that he believed the idea was more important than the actual execution of the piece. Lewitt’s work is both conceptual and minimalistic in that his designs are simplified to their most basic core and lines. And, that these pieces are executed from an idea, and that concept is the most important part. Combining the two, to create a beautiful balance, he comes up with clear, bare images and ideas and then creates them in the same spirit.
DESCRIPTION OF MEDIA, TECHNIQUE, AND INFLUENCE
Lewitt wished to avoid the emotion, action, and expression that he had seen used so heavily in the Abstract Expressionism movement. So he looked to post cubist, European Constructivists of the 1910-20’s for inspiration. He particularly appreciated the engineering aesthetic and utilitarian qualities. Lewitt was also deeply inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s serial photography, something he discovered by a book someone left in his apartment. Many of his works were based off of that idea of serial motion.
Lewitt received help executing his pieces from very early in his career. Often times, for his wall paintings, he would create an annotated draft and then people would work off of that. This method of creation goes hand in hand with his conceptualist beliefs that the idea was what mattered, not the process or final product.
Many of Lewitt’s works are done directly on walls, this “allowed him to achieve his objective of reinforcing flatness and making a work as two-dimensional as possible.” (sollewittprints.org) Lewitt felt that, “Two-dimensional works are not seen as objects. The work is a manifestation of an idea. It is an idea and not an object.”
Additionally, because Lewitt would draw out and diagramed his idea for others to execute, his wall paintings, though not kept permanently, could be recreated over and over again. This further showed his mentality of the idea being superior to the finished project. In accompaniment, Lewitt stated: “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”
Lewitt worked with a variety of mediums including graphite, ink, and acrylic paint. In addition to wood as sculpting material.
21ST CENTURY COMPARISON: Mary Heilmann
I find Heilmann’s work to be similar to Lewitt’s in her use of geometric forms and fun colors. Both artists focus on use of line and simplicity (minimalism). And, also use of space is deeply considered by the two. For Lewitt, the use of a wall, or walls, and for Heilmann, the use of separated canvases. Both tactics create more interesting compositions and viewing experiences.
I really enjoy Lewitt’s work for his simple, fun, and often colorful designs. His use of both geometric forms and organic shapes and lines keep the work appealing and interesting. A lot of his work has a very bold, graphic appearance which I also find appealing. I also find the size of his works intriguing, I think it would be so fun to have work like his on a wall in your house or something.
“Biography.” Sol Lewitt Catalogue Raisonne. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014.
“Sol LeWitt Five Open Geometric Structures 1979.” Tate. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.
“Sol Lewitt’s Influential Wall Sized Paintings.” Public Delivery. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.
“Part of Wall Drawing #565” 1988, india ink
“Wall Drawing #1136” 2004, acrylic paint
“Wall Drawing #901” 1999
“Wall Drawing #1183” 2005
“Wall Drawing #879, Loopy Doopy (black and white)” 1999, acrylic
“Wall Drawing #415B” 1984, india ink wash
“Not Straight Brushstrokes In All Directions” 1993, gouache on paper, 56.5 x 56.5 cm
“Five Open Geometric Structures” 1979, 92 x 67.2 x 91.4 cm, mahogany
“Autumn Wave” 2012, 15 color screen print on Rives, 62 x 43 cm
“Splashy Cut” 2013, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 101.6 cm