Advanced Search

Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt

American, 1928 - 2007

Sol LeWitt has often been called "the father of conceptual art." In 1967, he authored what came to be regarded as the manifesto of Conceptual Art, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art. In that essay he wrote: "In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work…the execution is a perfunctory affair" He goes on to say, "The ideas need not be complex. Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple. Successful ideas generally have the appearance of simplicity because they seem inevitable." Throughout his career, LeWitt explored the most basic elements of form, color, line and artmaking itself.

Early in his career, he set out, in his words, to "recreate art, to start from square one." The way in which he started from square one was to focus on the cube. Using logic and a mathematically rigorous approach to this form, he studied its volume, mass, surface, interior, architecture and permutations. An example of one of his cubes is shown here, a sculpture of an open cube, its skeleton revealed. When LeWitt was working with open cubes, he was thinking about volume, but also transparency.

Sol LeWitt's influence on contemporary art cannot be overstated. He stripped art down to its most essential components, and in so doing changed the way in which we conceive of art and artistic inquiry today. He, along with many of his contemporaries, introduced an intellectual approach to art in contrast with the emotion of Abstract Expressionism, which had dominated American art in the postwar era. He emphasized the idea over the object which turns on its head our usual thinking about what art is. And in his embrace of simplicity, he demonstrated over the years of working with the endless variety and permutations of the cube, that simples ideas can actually be quite complex.