Sol LeWitt : Wall Drawings

Sol LeWitt: Wall Drawings, Grids on Color
September 4 – October 31, 2015
Konrad Fischer Galerie Dusseldorf

Sol LeWitt: Wall Drawings, Grids on Black and White
September 5 – October 31, 2015
Konrad Fischer Galerie Berlin

LeWitt began his artistic career in the early 1960s with modular and serial constructions. He used repetition and the progression of simple three-dimensional geometries to place his works on a rational foundation, making them straightforward and repeatable. His aim was to abolish the inevitable illusionism of the painted surface, as well as to oppose its implicit claim to the uniqueness of the manually executed work. Later, LeWitt developed the medium of the wall drawing as a means of returning to the surface while still avoiding the problems of painting. He eliminated the physical support that usually lies between the exhibition wall and the artistic markings, placing them in an ideal space of their own. Conversely, he sought to ensure that the drawn traces would not stand out from the wall but form a single visual entity with it. Thus, for his earliest wall drawings LeWitt used hard pencils that produce a faintly visible line. He also opted for a type of drawing that, thanks to precise instructions, could be executed by draftsmen other than the artist himself.

From his own perspective, LeWitt’s wall drawings solved a whole series of problems that had plagued art, especially painting, and opened up a broad new field of activity for himself. He avoided the illusionism, expressiveness, and narrativity of painting. He excluded moments of perception from the work’s production, negated the importance of artistic execution, and left the work’s realization to others, without calling his own position as « author » into question. He made it possible for sparing sets of instructions to trigger the realization of wall-filling works, whose conceptual character nonetheless prevents a « feeling of the sublime » (Immanuel Kant) from arising. Finally, he responded to the critique of art’s commodity character by declaring that art as idea is not for sale, although the right to realize a work can be bought and sold. With his wall drawings, LeWitt became very successful very quickly. Among other things, he realized a wall drawing at Konrad Fischer’s gallery on Neubrückstraße in Dusseldorf as early as 1969.

Among the particularly rigorous works that are characteristic of this period are a number of wall drawings from 1979 (Wall Drawings #314 and #318, now realized in Berlin, as well as #317 and #319, now realized in Dusseldorf). In the first pair of drawings, each wall is vertically or diagonally divided into a white field and a black one, while in the second, the wall surfaces are divided horizontally and vertically or diagonally into four colored fields (red, yellow, blue, and black). Latex paint is used. In each drawing, the entire wall is covered with a one-inch grid of pencil lines. Another variant of the color drawings is Wall Drawing #322. Here, the pencil grid covers a wall that is vertically divided into five fields using the colors employed by LeWitt at the time—the three primary colors plus black and white. Much later, he conceived new variations on the pattern, such as Wall Drawing #622. Here, he uses a new technique for the color fields, the overlapping of color ink washes covered with a horizontal/vertical as well as a diagonal grid. In a sense, the use of the grid structure represents a return to the early days of the artist’s wall drawings. However, since the networks of the grid are now larger than they had been some ten years earlier, the geometric structure functions as an aid for measuring the large color fields.


Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing WD 318, 1979 black pencil grid, black and white wall

Even though it is possible to verify conclusively the nominalistic dependence of the perceptible phenomenon on the concept and to retrace the steps of a thought process that ruthlessly excludes all speculation regarding transcendence, the executed drawing still contains a pointedly disconcerting moment. It is impossible to perceive the work as a unified phenomenon. The large color fields can only be taken in from a distance, while one must be much closer to the work to perceive the pencil grid. The viewer is forced to take different positions, each of which entails the loss to perception of one of the drawing’s elements. While the drawing is conceived in such a way that its idea can be understood completely, its perception is driven by an uncontrollable and seemingly irrational moment of incompleteness and loss. The result is an unsettling conflict between what there is to see and what there is to know. But instead of resolving this conflict in favor of what there is to know, LeWitt followed his own premise from the « Sentences »—the postulate that the perception of ideas leads to new ideas—and designed drawings like Wall Drawing #726A, in which the instructions are calculated from the beginning to produce a result marked by indeterminacy.

Excerpt from the exhibition text written by Ulrich Loock (August 2015)
Translation : James Gussen