Detailed, painstaking, strangely liberating. These terms have often been used to describe Sol LeWitt’s large drawings and paintings that span entire walls in some of the most well-known museums in the world. LeWitt came up with the concept behind the work, then employed hundreds of working artists, art students and art historians to execute them–allowing his works to be subject to new and unexpected changes throughout the process.
In this way, “each instantiation, each iteration, is a new interpretation, as is a new performance of a musical score” (Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries).
A New York Times article written after LeWitt’s death stated, “…Mr. LeWitt gently reminded everybody that architects are called artists — good architects, anyway — even though they don’t lay their own bricks, just as composers write music that other people play but are still musical artists. Mr. LeWitt, by his methods, permitted other people to participate in the creative process, to become artists themselves.”
LeWitt offers a refreshing approach to art, especially in some of his personal writing. In a letter to fellow artist Eva Hesse, LeWitt wrote: “Stop it and just DO. Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool… You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.”
LeWitt started out as a graphic designer for the architect I.M. Pei, and later drew on this background to form his signature solid-colored, flat painting and drawing style. Many of his earlier works were devoid of colors; later he switched to adding more colors and curves to his pieces in the 1980’s. People questioned why the stark conceptualist suddenly switched, and he responded, “Why not?”
“A life in art is an unimaginable and unpredictable experience” (Sol LeWitt).