10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt was an influential American artist renowned for his contributions to the conceptual art movement. Born on September 9, 1928, in Hartford, Connecticut, LeWitt revolutionized the art world with his unique approach to creating artwork. Although his works have been displayed in major galleries and museums around the world, there are still some intriguing facts about this artistic pioneer that may surprise you.

1. He Started as a Graphic Designer

Before venturing into the world of fine arts, LeWitt began his creative journey as a graphic designer. He worked for various publications, including “Architectural Forum” and “Time Life Books,” where he honed his skills in composition and design. This experience later influenced his minimalist approach to art.

LeWitt’s background in graphic design is evident in his works, which often feature simple geometric shapes and patterns. His clean and precise aesthetic, combined with his deep understanding of visual communication, helped shape his iconic style.

2. He Coined the Term “Conceptual Art”

Sol LeWitt is credited with coining the term “conceptual art” in 1967. He used it to describe art that emphasizes the importance of ideas and concepts over traditional aesthetic qualities. LeWitt believed that the idea behind the artwork was the most important aspect, challenging the notion that art must be decorative or visually pleasing.

His pioneering role in conceptual art laid the foundation for future artists’ exploration of the genre. LeWitt’s belief in the power of ideas continues to inspire contemporary artists to push the boundaries of conventional art and embrace new concepts and forms.

3. He Was Inspired by Mathematics

Mathematics played a significant role in Sol LeWitt’s artistic practice. He admired the precision and logic found in mathematical principles and used them as a basis for his geometric and repetitive designs. LeWitt believed that art, like mathematics, should adhere to systematic rules and guidelines.

Throughout his career, LeWitt experimented with mathematical concepts such as permutations, combinations, and proportionality. His fascination with math allowed him to create intricate yet orderly compositions, captivating viewers with the underlying mathematical harmony within his works.

4. LeWitt’s Art Was Not Limited to Visual Mediums

While Sol LeWitt is widely known for his visual artworks, his talent and creativity extended beyond the visual realm. He explored various mediums, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking. Additionally, LeWitt was also interested in writing and music.

LeWitt’s diverse artistic expressions allowed him to challenge traditional boundaries and find new ways to convey his ideas. By working in multiple mediums, he expanded his artistic language and influenced artists across disciplines, leaving a lasting impact on the art world.

5. He Created Wall Drawings

An iconic aspect of Sol LeWitt’s artistic legacy is his vast collection of wall drawings. These large-scale, site-specific drawings were executed directly on walls, transforming gallery spaces into immersive environments. LeWitt’s wall drawings featured intricate geometric patterns and shapes, creating visually stunning experiences for viewers.

What makes LeWitt’s wall drawings unique is that they were not executed by the artist himself. He provided detailed instructions and diagrams to teams of assistants who would meticulously create the artworks following his guidelines. This collaborative process highlighted LeWitt’s belief that the idea was more important than the physical execution.

6. He Embraced Collaborative Art

Sol LeWitt believed in the power of collaboration and embraced the concept of collective authorship in his artwork. His wall drawings were executed by teams of artists and art students, emphasizing the idea that the concept of the artwork was more crucial than the artist’s hand.

LeWitt viewed the collaborative process as a way to democratize art, encouraging the participation and involvement of others in the creative process. His approach challenged the notion of the solitary artist and fostered a sense of shared ownership and collective creativity.

7. His Artwork Can Be Found Worldwide

Sol LeWitt’s influential artworks can be found in major galleries, museums, and public spaces across the globe. His minimalist and conceptual pieces have been exhibited in renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

In addition to traditional gallery exhibitions, LeWitt’s public art installations can be seen in cities worldwide, including New York, Chicago, and Tokyo. His large-scale sculptures and wall drawings have become iconic landmarks, enriching public spaces with their geometric beauty and thought-provoking concepts.

8. He Inspired a Generation of Artists

Sol LeWitt’s groundbreaking contributions to the art world continue to inspire and influence generations of artists. His emphasis on concepts, systematic approaches, and collaborative processes opened doors to new possibilities for artists worldwide.

The legacy of Sol LeWitt can be seen in the practices of artists across different disciplines. His ideas and philosophy resonate with those who seek to challenge traditions, experiment with concepts, and push the boundaries of art, keeping his spirit alive in the contemporary art scene.

9. LeWitt’s Artwork Was Not Constrained by Time

A unique aspect of Sol LeWitt’s work is its timelessness. Unlike traditional artworks that can only be displayed in one location, LeWitt’s conceptual pieces can be executed and exhibited in multiple locations simultaneously.

LeWitt’s artworks are often accompanied by written instructions or diagrams that outline how they can be executed. This allows his works to exist beyond the physical realm, making them accessible to a wider audience and adaptable to different spaces and contexts.

10. His Influence Extends to Architecture

Sol LeWitt’s impact extends beyond the realm of fine arts. His iconic wall drawings have heavily influenced the field of architecture and interior design. Architects and designers often draw inspiration from LeWitt’s geometric patterns and minimalist aesthetic when creating spaces.

LeWitt’s collaboration with renowned architects, such as I. M. Pei, further solidified the connection between his artwork and the architectural world. His integration of art and architecture demonstrates the seamless blending of disciplines and the possibilities for art to shape and enhance physical environments.

Sol LeWitt’s conceptual approach to art, his emphasis on ideas and collaboration, and his geometric aesthetic have left an indelible mark on the art world. His influence continues to be felt in contemporary art, architecture, and beyond, inspiring creativity and redefining the boundaries of artistic expression.

Useful Links:

Sol LeWitt on Artsy
Sol LeWitt at MoMA
Sol LeWitt at Tate Modern
Sol LeWitt at Centre Pompidou
Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings on Architectural Digest
Example of a Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing at Tate