One of the foremost practitioners of Minimalism and Conceptual art, Sol LeWitt conceived of an entirely new form of ‘Instruction’ based art, believing that the ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ of an artwork was more important than its execution. Radically redefining and reimagining the nature of art, this concept would become pivotal to successive generations of artists, opening the door to an entirely new way of conceiving and creating art.
Born in 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut, LeWitt studied Fine Art at Syracuse University, graduating in 1955. After travelling around Europe, he worked as a graphic designer for I.M Pei’s architecture studio in New York. In 1960, LeWitt took a job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York at the book counter, where his co-workers included Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin, and Robert Mangold. This situated him in the midst of a group of young artists searching for a new direction.
LeWitt rose to fame for his wall drawings and ‘structures’, the term he used to describe his three-dimensional work. First conceived in 1968, the wall drawings consisted of plans and diagrams for his two-dimensional works to be drawn directly onto a wall with graphite, then crayon, and subsequently filled with bright color. Following the very first wall drawing exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in 1968, LeWitt rarely executed these works himself, employing assistants to produce the work according to specific diagrams, designs, and instructions he created. Initially monochrome, these large scale, collaborative creations were rendered in bright, primary colors from the mid-1970s onwards. LeWitt wrote one of the first essays on conceptual art, entitled Sentences on Conceptual Art in 1969.
In 1970, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague was the first museum to present a retrospective of LeWitt’s work. The Museum of Modern Art, New York organized a retrospective of the artist’s work in 1978. In 2000, he was featured in a major retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which subsequently travelled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His works are found in some of the most important museum collections in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim, all in New York, as well as the Pompidou Center, Paris, Tate Gallery, London, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Sol LeWitt died in New York City on April 8, 2007.