Sol Lewitt, Master of Conceptualism, dies at 78.

Sol Lewitt, originally uploaded by valleygirl2005.

Michael Kimmelman
April 10, 2007  

SOL LEWITT, whose deceptively simple geometric sculptures and drawings and ecstatically coloured and jazzy wall paintings established him as a lodestar of modern American art, died in New York on Sunday, from cancer. He was 78.

LeWitt helped establish conceptualism and minimalism as dominant movements of the postwar era. A patron and friend of colleagues young and old, he was the opposite of the artist as celebrity. He tried to suppress all interest in him as opposed to his work; he turned down awards and was camera-shy and reluctant to do interviews.

Typically, a 1980 work called Autobiography consisted of more than 1000 photographs of every nook and cranny of his Manhattan loft, down to the plumbing fixtures and he documented everything that had happened to him in taking the pictures. But he appeared in only one photograph.

His work – sculptures of white cubes, or drawings of geometric patterns, or splashes of paint like Rorschach patterns – tested a viewer’s psychological and visual flexibility.

He reduced art to basic shapes (spheres, triangles), colours (red, yellow, blue) and lines, and organised them by guidelines he felt in the end free to bend. Much of what he devised came down to specific ideas or instructions: a thought to contemplate, or plans for drawings or actions that could be carried out by you, or not.

Lewitt’s early sculptures were chaste white cubes and grey cement blocks. For years people associated him with them, and they seemed to encapsulate a remark he once made: that what art looks like “isn’t too important”. This was never exactly his point. What passed for humour in his art tended to be dry. Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value (1968), an object he buried in the garden of Dutch collectors, was his deadpan gag about waving goodbye to minimalism.

He took an idea as far as he thought it could go, then tried to find a way to proceed, so that he was never satisfied with the result but saw each work as a proposition opening onto a fresh question. Asked about a switch he made in the ’80s – adding ink washes, which allowed him new colours, curves and free forms – LeWitt said: “Why not?” He added: “A life in art is an unimaginable and unpredictable experience.”

From: The Sydney Morning Herald and The New York Times – Full story 
Image: Librado Romero/The New York Times


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