Questioning the art object 2: Sol LeWitt

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Questioning the art object 2: Sol LeWitt. Sol LeWitt , Wall drawing 462 , first drawn 1986. On four walls, one room, arcs 4 inches (10 cm) wide, from the midpoints of four sides, drawn with alternating bands of gray and black ink wash. Review of last session… Conceptual Art. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of Questioning the art object 2: Sol LeWitt

Questioning the art object 2 Robert Rauschenberg, clement greenbergs criticism.

Questioning the art object 2: Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt, Wall drawing 462, first drawn 1986. On four walls, one room, arcs 4 inches (10 cm) wide, from the midpoints of four sides, drawn with alternating bands of gray and black ink wash. This is an example of LeWitts style of work an installation really that is, a site-specific work based upon instructions by the artist. This is a detail; the complete work covers all 4 walls of a room.1Review of last sessionConceptual Art.Occurred as an avant-garde movement in 1960s/70s. Also called Idea art; Post-object art; Dematerialised art (referring to the dematerialisation or disappearance, of the art object.)

A questioning of the emphasis on the aesthetic, and on the nature of the art object, made possible the earlier work of Duchamps readymades.

Was it art? The conceptual art endeavour was about questioning artabout the importance of an idea or concept. Various artists approached this in different ways, and there was an overlap with other movements: Fluxus; Minimalism; Pop Art.

Often involved language & text within the work or sometimes it was the ENTIRE work. (Use of text started with Cubist collageson through Dada & Surrealism)

The idea of documentation was important the documentation of an idea; or else the photographic or video documentation of an ephemeral work (e.g. Marjorie Striders Street Works.) The documentation itself could be non-artistic: just simple, basic documentation.

We may recall that avant-garde means at the forefront, and was used to describe the new ideas and art movements that arose during the Modernist period.

The artists themselves have sometimes written about, or been interviewed about, their intentions. Art critics can also sometimes help us with this aspect. American artist Sol LeWitt wrote in 1967 about his ideas about a term he coined: Conceptual Art. These writings were published in an important Art Journal (ArtForum)

2However, much of it was not good to look at why on earth would you want to create art that is boring to look at? This is an important aspect of art-making practice to consider: the intentions and purpose of the artist.

Conceptual Art wasnt intended to necessarily give you any visual pleasure . It was a proposition an idea on paper, designed, not to please you visually, but rather to make a statement about art. Other movements that were associated with Conceptual art, or overlapped in terms of their concerns or their approach, were more interested in the formal aspects of the art (eg Pop Art, Minimalism.) All of them questioned the art object in some way, and all avoided personalised expression.

Ed Ruscha, (US, b. 1937), Phillips 66, Flagstaff Arizona, from Twenty six gasoline stations, published book with b & w Photographs, 1962This was a series of photos of every petrol station along Route 66 highway. It was put together in a cheap publication which deliberately had no art-book beauty about it it was a simple record, a document, of his travels along this particular road. How might we consider this in the light of, say, Impressionism?We may recall that the Abstract Expressionist artists (eg Jackson Pollock) were all about personal expression; the inner self, spontaneity. The gestural mark was seen as important a particular mark made through the movement of the hand, arm or whole body.3Sol LeWitt (U.S.1928 2007) was one of the artists who defined Conceptual Art, in his writings in the late 1960s. He said : 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 a machine that makes the art How could we describe this kind of statement? How could we contrast it with what we know about Abstract Expressionism?

LeWitt, Drawing #146, All two-part combinations of blue arcs from corners and sides and blue straight, not straight and broken lines., September 1972. Blue crayon, dimensions variable.This work has been drawn, in crayon, directlyonto the walls of the gallery in which it wasexhibited. What consequences does this approachHave?With this quote, LeWitt is describing his art practice; his method of arriving at art to make. Note his use of the term machine. This kind of statement is in contrast to the methods of the Abstract Expressionists, who stereotypically worked spontaneously and intuitively, often with an emphasis on personal gesture and expressive marks. (Perfunctory = done without much effort or interest.)

Creating works that are drawn directly onto the wall means that the idea of the art object is subverted (ruined). Also, it must be an ephemeral work, as it will eventually need to make way for the next exhibition. So no matter how long it took to create etc, it will be shortly destroyed, except for photo documentation.4LeWitt worked with sculpture, drawings and printmaking. He was especially interested in seriality (working in series) and working logically, letting an idea totally work itself through. He regarded the SYSTEM of working out where the various variations of shapes and angles would go, as the artwork. What we see on the wall is the RESULT OF THE ARTWORK, not the artwork itself.

His wall works were created entirely by his technical crew. He didnt do any of the mark-making work himself. He wrote the instructions only. The drawings were with coloured crayon, chalk (now replaced by water soluble crayon) and pencil.

Working instructions for work installed at Art Gallery of NSW in 1977.Because the artwork is the idea and theWorking out of the instructions, like a readymade, it is not unique, therefore it can be created in several galleries at the one time. Also, it can be recreated years after it was first created.Ma clip on LeWitt, by one of his assistants: http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/305) http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/1/2180

5LeWitt was trained in graphic design and worked in the printing industry before breaking into art. His interest lay in mathematical and logical grids, arcs, circles, cubes, squares. He was interested in the anonymity created by lack of any personal gesture; or subjective input.

Untitled from Squares with a different line direction in each half square, etching, image 18 x 18cm, 1971 LeWitt was inspired by Edward Muybridges sequential photographs of animals and people in motion. Its the same image, but slightly different, slightly progressed.6Pieces such as Wall drawing 88 bring in another dimension of LeWitts ideas. He wrote out specific instructions: the technician was directed to draw non-straight lines, that is, lines by hand (rather than with a ruler, say) and keep going to fill in a grid of a certain size. This kind of work complicates our conceptual framework, with this addition of the technicians manual skill to consider. It means that, even though broadly speaking each piece as outlined is the same, wherever it is produced, (because the instructions are identical, and the idea is the artwork, remember) in fact elements such as this mean that every one of such pieces are unique and variable. There is an inbuilt contradiction here, that is not formally recognisedor is it?

Wall drawing 88, (detail), drawing on wall, 1971, re-created 2008.The effect or one of the effects of a work such as this is the tension created by these contradictions, in the mind of the audience. And, ironically, within a highly structured creation, the inclusion of some elements that are hand drawn, and inevitably contain some expression on the part of the assistant, are a welcome inclusion. We find ourselves looking for this. Or some of us do.7

Wall drawing 797, 1995 ( here being recreated, 2009) another example of instructions whichInclude the hand of the technician or assistant/s)The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached.

8These drawn wall works are big. They are impressive monumental, in fact. And they are in fact visually interesting, or even overwhelming, (despite the fact that LeWitt claimed that what it looked like was irrelevant. ) He has deliberately contradicted this impressive nature of the scale, by making them ephemeral. This forces us as audiences to cope with this contradiction. It makes us conscious of it. It makes us think. (Damn.)

The whole fact of using the technique of drawing, also, is contradictory. Drawing was traditionally something more private; or used for studies or sketches working up to a fully resolved oil painting or sculpture. However here, drawing takes on an almost heroic role in the art institution.

Also, there is no hierarchy within the work itselfno figure vs. ground, as we traditionally expect from an artwork (no matter how distorted the figure may be) or more important vs. less important areas of the work. (We saw this lack of hierarchy last session with Jackson Pollocks Abstract Expressionist work, too. )As LeWitt got more famous, his works became more valuable and the ephemeral nature of them has been compromised somewhat. There is an exhibition of his wall works in the US which is scheduled to stay in place for 25 years. 9The scale of LeWitts wall works, and his cube sculptures, relate in a certain way to the body of the viewer, (rather than simply the retinal or, your eyes.) This was called Minimal Art. Typically such art avoids persona