Sol Lewitt (1928 – 2007) – ‘The idea becomes the machine that makes the art’
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Cube Structure Based on Nine Modules (Wall/Floor Piece #2) – Sol Lewitt
Sol Lewitt died yesterday. If you have had your eye on Dataisnature for a while, you will have heard his name mentioned a lot on these pages. Just after the time of the ‘heroic’ gestures of Abstract Expression Lewitt conceived of a new language utilising simple impersonal forms in repetition and modulation, often drawing directly onto the wall. The fact that these Conceptual drawings were designed to be painted over solidified Lewitt’s claims that the ‘idea behind the work supersedes the work itself’ and that ‘The idea becomes the machine that makes the art’. Prophetically for our times Lewitt also said that “Ideas cannot be owned. They belong to whomever understands them.”
The works are conceptual and aesthetically pleasing at the same time and Lewitt’s path eventually lead him to writing instructions for making a piece of art. These instructions meant that his works could be recreated anywhere and more importantly it represented a shift in ‘artistic authority’ from a centralised model to a distributed one. The idea of ‘instruction based art’ was incredibly forward thinking when we consider the contemporary practices of digital generative artists and their use of code and algorithms to make ‘pictures’. More so the concepts and philosophies dealing with ownership have never been more relevant.
added : Tom Moody reflected this post and added some extra interesting thoughts on Lewitt’s work and other valid points regarding my post.