Born: Hartford, Connecticut
“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”
– Sol LeWitt
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Sol LeWitt was born in 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut. After receiving his B.F.A. Degree from Syracuse University and serving in the Korean War as a graphic artist, he moved to New York in 1953, just as Abstract Expressionism was gaining public recognition. He found various jobs to support himself, including working for the young architect I.M. Pei as a graphic designer. This contact proved formative, for as LeWitt would later write, “An architect doesn’t go off with a shovel and dig his foundation and lay every brick. He’s still an artist”.
For LeWitt and his colleagues, Abstract Expressionism had become an entrenched style that offered few new creative possibilities. LeWitt began to create works that utilized simple and impersonal geometric forms, exploring repetition and variations of a basic form or line as a way to achieve complex works. Perhaps most importantly, he evolved a working method for creating artworks based on simple directions, works that could be executed by others rather than the artist. The fertility of this approach is demonstrated by the aesthetic richness and variety of the wall drawings, none of which was drawn by him. LeWitt rejects the notion of art as a unique and precious object. Formulated from an initial idea outlined in a diagrammatic sketch accompanied by a set of instructions, his works are installed on the wall of the gallery or museum by a team of assistants, who rigorously follow the artist’s directives. Some instructions are simple and straightforward, and some are long and complex. By placing his drawings directly on the wall of the gallery or museum, LeWitt merges his drawing with the architecture, while also calling into questions ideas about permanence, value, and conservation.