ART NEWSROOM International

(American, b. 1928 - )

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

February 19, 2000 - May 21, 2000

'Conceptual Art is only good when the idea is good' (Sol  Le Witt , 1967)


Sol Le Witt, Lines, Colours and their Combinations 1969-70
Sol Le Witt, 'Lines, Colours and their Combinations' 1969-70, Ink on paper in metal frames
124.5 x 124.5cm Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo

Report from Rachel Le Goff

Hailed as "the pioneer of Conceptual art" Sol Le Witt has placed much more than 'ideas' in front of us and has reached the level of popularity where his bright abstract easel paintings are liked just for the image, rather than the idea.  Instead of with-holding the object to which the idea is attached, generally the aim of the concept artist - Le Witt has moved beyond visual gimmickry and returned to the possessible object: painting or sculpture. 

Looking back over four decades of Le Witt's work the SFMOMA exhibition hopes to clarify the artist's position in the history of American 20th Century art. Born in Hartford, Connecticut Le Witt became famous in the 1960's largely over his obssession with the cube. His first modular cube structure was created in 1965. It showed a wooden skeleton of repeated empty cubes painted black - boring to look at, the piece only made significant sense when you made an effort to comprehend the 'concept' behind it.  Le Witt explained "I decided to remove the skin altogether and reveal the structure." thus abolishing the distinction between interior and exterior space.

During the 1960's Le Witt's cube fixation exploded into large installation works such as 
Serial Project 1, (A, B, C, D) 1966, Stove enamel on aluminium 
83 x 576 x 576 cm 
Saatchi Collection, London

Based on a 26 x 26 unit grid divided into 4 sections (A, B, C, D) the cubes both skeletal and closed have 3 heights and create an "open/closed open/closed" rhythym.

Sol Le Witt, Serial Project 1, (A, B, C, D) 1966

By extension his earlier work also became representative of that non-existent movement called 'Minimialism'. Austere, monochromatic, geometric - his cube drawings such as Lines in Four Directions/Superimposed 1234 (1969) and series of 'wall drawings' that basically show finely drawn dark squares on paper with hand written 'concepts' below have been sources of inspiration for a younger generation of art stars like Brice Marden. The drawings, some of which will be on show at SFMOMA reflect the discipline Le Witt acquired working as a  graphic artist for Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. The drawings adhere strictly to the rule : the less visual information supplied - the stronger the concept. 
However later easel paintings break free of this minimalism and repetition of reduced  images sometimes referred to as 'serial art'. Le Witt discovered polychromic and multi-patterened images had their own conceptual message to convey and it is these paintings which will please the crowds in San Francisco. 



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