Magazine article Art Monthly

Recollecting LeWitt

Magazine article Art Monthly

Recollecting LeWitt

Article excerpt

The impact of Sol LeWitt's nearly five-decade career on the art of his own time cannot be overestimated. The aesthetic innovation characterising his prolific production pertains equally to two and three dimensional practice, a practice which in his case bridges the advent of Minimalism in the late 50s and early 60s and the beginnings of Conceptual Art in the latter half of the 60s. At the fore on both fronts, LeWitt leaves behind an impressive body of work consisting of the many sculptures he preferred be called 'structures' and a huge number of wall drawings as well as works on paper, photographic works and artists' books.

LeWitt's work has entered the annals of art history as witnessed by his many exhibitions held worldwide over the years, including benchmark retrospectives organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1977 and, in 2000, by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; in 1993 a major show was held at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. A brief consideration here suggests the nature of his contribution to the ongoing evolution of modernist thinking whereby art serves to propose new possibilities for approaching reality and thereby to engender visible change by way of new ideas.

If the work of LeWitt is central to the period of the late 60s and 70s, this is not simply on account of his famed texts Paragraphs on Conceptual Art' of 1967 and 'Sentences on Conceptual Art' of 1969. Ultimately, it is because of his corpus of works of visual complexity resulting from the methodologies he originated and followed to logical and objective, rather than whimsical and subjective, conclusion. LeWitt's development of a serial approach and his belief in the adoption of a predetermined plan for each work, as he explicitly spelled out in the 'Paragraphs', underlies the richness of an oeuvre devoted to the suppression of arbitrary compositional motifs in favour of works that, sparked at the ideational behest of the artist, follow preset principles of formal necessity.

Keystone early works exemplifying LeWitt's serial approach, including Serial Project #1 (A,B,C,D), 1966, Modular Cube, 1966, and 49 Three-Part Variations on Three Different Kinds of Cubes, 1967-71, bear witness to the rationale underlying his method. As the artist maintained in his well-known essay in the Fall/Winter issue of the short-lived, experimental Aspen Magazine, in such serial compositions 'chance, taste, or unconsciously remembered forms' are precluded from the work. …

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