Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #1167, Dark to Light (2005) at the Venice Biennale

When you get as close as this guy did, you realize that the whole thing is made up of graphite scribbles.

I saw this at the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (which I have an unending, and possibly even growing, obsession with) in 2007. This is interesting if you notice the date of the work, which is 2005. And it's on the wall, it wasn't brought in on a canvas... so it was executed in 2007, but the date is 2005.

That's because LeWitt's work was all about the idea, which he explained through written instructions and then handed off to others to execute. LeWitt was actually one of the artists who verbalized the premises behind Conceptual Art, and in his "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," he writes:

"When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art." (Artforum, 1967)

So in 2005, he came up with the idea that became the machine that produced the art in 2007.

Wall Drawing #1245 (2007), first installed at PaceWildenstein

His work in general raises all sorts of interesting issues regarding art that I won't delve too far into here since this isn't a class, but I can't help but point out a few interesting things:
  • The work is all scribbles, which are sort of the definition of "my kid could do that" art, but they are controlled scribbles, carefully planned and executed to create an overall effect. Unlike abstract expressionist art, this is emotionless and devoid of individualistic expression.
  • Also, he doesn't do the execution, breaking down the idea of the artist as a solitary genius and sole possessor of an intangible talent. However, it's interesting to note that early Renaissance masters also had entire workshops of artisans execute their works.
  • The work could be reproduced countless times, based on the instructions. But if it isn't authorized by him, is it a copy? Or is it still art? Is it still valuable?

  • Even though LeWitt said his art was not meant to be beautiful, there is something beautiful about the scribble pieces, and their visual power in person is surprising given the methodical, process-oriented nature of the work. I for one wanted to stand and stare for a while.
  • Finally, I think it's interesting how he was obsessed with pointing out the flatness of the picture plane, which in most cases is actually the wall. This is directly opposed to pre-Modern art, in which the artist wanted to create a believable representation of 3d space within the picture plane that looked like you could walk right into it. Instead, LeWitt is saying "Look, it's just a wall."

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