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Sol LeWitt
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Hartford, Connecticut
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
New York
The conceptual artist Sol LeWitt is a painter, sculptor, draftsman, printmaker and originator of wall drawings. His art is about ideas, and he is known for his systems-based work. The ideas that form his systems become the content of his art. It has been characterized as a tension between the beauty of the objects and rigor of the concepts behind them. Beginning in the mid-1960s, he developed a simple system of lines and cubes to devise art free from previous stylistic associations. Soon he published two influential statements on Conceptualism: “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (ARTFORUM, June 1967) and “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (ART-LANGUAGE, May 1969). When he began drawing directly on a wall, using a team of assistants to execute his written systems (see ASSOCIATIONS WITH PRINT STUDIOS), he overturned traditional assumptions about the permanent, unique, and autographic nature of art. Generally LeWitt’s murals are made by others under his supervision according to a set of instructions. The idea, by his Conceptualist credo, is that if installed without the artist’s hand, the art is indefinitely repeatable and can theoretically live forever. Printmaking is a primary vehicle for LeWitt’s communication of conceptual strategies in systems-based art for these reasons: Compositions can be varied easily through color modification (color has always been important to LeWitt); adding or repositioning plates produces a serial image; etching is a particularly good medium because of its potential for a sharp, clean, “impersonal” line with which to diagram a prescribed formal scheme. LAST AND MOST PERMANENT RESIDENCE: Chester, Connecticut GIFT TO THE WADSWORTH ATHENEUM: The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, has enjoyed a long-standing special relationship with LeWitt. In 1976 he made a promised gift of his extensive collection of conceptual art, and much of this collection is now on deposit at the museum. A major lobby renovation of the Atheneum's original 1842 neo-Gothic Wadsworth Building, completed in 1996, features a dramatic new wall drawing by LeWitt. The Atheneum has two other major room-size wall drawing installations on permanent view. FAMILY BACKGROUND: Sol LeWitt’s parents were Abraham and Sophie LeWitt, Russians who emigrated to the United States, and were married here in 1921. His father graduated from Cornell Medical School in 1901 and practiced in Hartford, Connecticut. After his father's death in 1934, LeWitt and his mother moved to New Britain, Connecticut. EDUCATION: Elementary and high schools, New Britain, Connecticut 1945-1949 Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, BFA 1949 1953 Attended Cartoonists and Illustrators School (later known as The School of Visual Arts), New York MILITARY: 1951-1952 Served in the US army in Japan and Korea; this gave him an opportunity to study Asian shrines, temples and gardens. EARLY EMPLOYMENT HISTORY AND ASSOCIATION WITH LUCY LIPPARD: 1954-1955 Photostat operator, SEVENTEEN Magazine. The next year he was hired to do production work for the magazine. 1955-1956 Graphic artist for architect I.M. Pei on project for Roosevelt Field Shopping Center, Long Island, New York. 1957-1960 Painted; did graphic design for a commercial firm. 1960-1965 Museum of Modern Art, New York. Worked at Information and Book Sales Desk, and as staff entrance night receptionist. In 1960 met Lucy Lippard, who worked in the Museum Library, and the artists Robert Mangold, Robert Ryman, and Dan Flavin, who were working as guards. LeWitt's deep interest in bookmaking was shared by Lucy Lippard. In 1976 Lippard wrote a monograph on the artist Eva Hesse, published by the New York University Press. LeWitt designed the book. That year LeWitt and Lippard founded Printed Matter, a group whose aim was to publish and distribute artists' books. (The group included Crown Point Press artist Pat Steir.) Over a dozen books appeared. INFLUENTIAL ARTIST FRIENDSHIPS: Eva Hesse, Carl Andre, Jo Baer, Mel Bochner, Dan Graham, Michael Kirby, Robert Smithson, Marjorie Strider, Ruth Vollmer. TEACHING POSITIONS: 1964-1967 part-time instructor, Museum of Modern Art school (called The People's Art Center), New York 1967-1968 Cooper Union, New York 1969-1970 School of Visual Arts, New York 1970-1971 Education Department, New York University, Washington Square ASSOCIATIONS WITH PRINT STUDIOS include: -Began working at Crown Point Press in 1971 through a collaboration with Parasol Press with which he was associated. Has made over 300 etchings in Crown Point studios, ranging from early geometric line drawings in black and white to boldly colored spit bite aquatints. Since 1980 they have been published under the Crown Point Press imprint. -Prior to working at Crown Point, made prints at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Lithography Workshop (1971). -Watanabe Studio, New York. Jo Watanabe, a former wall drawing assistant and screenprint specialist, became LeWitt’s principal printer in the mid-1970’s and remains so today. COMMISSIONS include: 1979 General Services Administration, Syracuse, New York 1979 DANCE, in collaboration with Lucinda Childs and Philip Glass, Brooklyn Academy of Music 1980 Hartford Coliseum (Connecticut) 1981 New Mexico State University, Las Cruces 1984 Light Rail Transit System, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1985 10 West Jackson Street, Chicago 1985 The Equitable Center, New York City 1985 BOC Group, Windlesham, Surrey, England ONE PERSON EXHIBITIONS include: 1990-1997 -New structure, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago (1997) -Wall paintings/monochrome murals, Ace Gallery, New York (1997) -Wall drawings, XXIII Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, Brazil (1996) -Sol LeWitt Prints 1970-1995, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1996) -The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, England -John Weber Gallery, New York -Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut -Galerie de Ponche, Paris 1980-1989 -Annemarie Verna, Zurich -Galerie Watari, Tokyo -Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut -Paula Cooper Gallery, New York -Graeme Murray Gallery, Edinburgh -Lisson Gallery, London -Musee d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France -University Art Museum, Berkeley, California -John Weber Gallery, New York 1970-1979 -Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands -John Weber Gallery, New York -Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium -Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterloo, The Netherlands -Lisson Gallery, London -Fifty Drawings 1964-1974, organized by Vancouver Art Gallery (traveled, including San Francisco Museum of Art, now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) 1960-1969 -First wall drawings, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (1968). Developed a fundamental premise for drawings: lines in four directions--vertical, horizontal, and the two diagonals. -First modular pieces of open cubic forms made (1965). First one-man exhibition (painted constructions) at the Daniels Gallery, New York (May 1965). GROUP EXHIBITIONS include: 1990-1997 -Thirty-Five Years at Crown Point Press: Making Prints, Doing Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (June-September, 1997), FAMSF (October 1997-January 1998) -International Survey of the Concept of Identity in Conceptual Art, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1997) -Art Center Zerynthia, Italy. Located in Rome, Zerynthia is an association for contemporary art founded in 1991. In 1994 a LeWitt exhibition inaugurated Zerynthia’s exhibition space/art center in Paliano, near Rome. -Drawings, John Weber Gallery, New York -45th Annual Academy Purchase Exhibit, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York -Prints from the 1960’s and 1970’s, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York -Livres d’artistes, Galerie Mansart, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris -Directions in Bay Area Printmaking: 3 Decades, Palo Alto Cultural Center, California -Allegories of Modernism: Contemporary Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York -Prints in Series: Christian Boltanski, Sol LeWitt and Jose Maria Sicilia, Crown Point Press, New York -Contemporary Woodblock Prints from Crown Point Press, The Leif E. Johnson Memorial Exhibition, Edison Community College, Fort Myers, Florida -Prints Made At Crown Point Press, Tate Gallery, London 1980-1989 -American Master Drawing from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC -Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York -Murs: Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris -Vision 5 - Artists’ Photographs, Crown Point Press, Oakland, California -A Century of Modern Drawings, Museum of Modern Art, New York -Big Prints, The Arts Council of Great Britain, London (traveled) -Not So Plain Geometry, Crown Point Press, New York -Viewpoint ‘81 Installation, Cranbrook Academy of the Arts, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan -Artists, Gardens and Parks--Plans, Drawings and Photographs, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts -Mise en Pieces/Mise en Place/Mise en Point, Maison de la Culture, Chalon-sur-Saone, France and Le Coin de Miroir, Dijon, France -Mapped Art: Charts, Routes, Regions, organized by the Independent Curators, Inc., New York (traveled) -Buren, LeWitt, Long, Sandback, Lisson Gallery, London 1970-1979 -69th American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago (traveled) -100 New Acquisitions, Brooklyn Museum, New York -Grids: Format and Image in 20th century Art, Pace Gallery, New York -A View of a Decade, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago -Drawing Now, Tel Aviv Museum, Israel -Choice, Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut -Lucio Amelio Gallery, Naples (1975). LeWitt superimposed his own wall drawing (spiderwebs of line) on a mural stripe painting by Crown Point artist, Daniel Buren. 1960-1969/70 Three important group exhibitions of Conceptual art: -Information, The Museum of Modern Art, New York -When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland -Konzeption/Conception, Stadtisch Museum, Leverkusen, West Germany Four important group exhibitions of Minimal art: -Multiplicity, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston -Primary Structures, The Jewish Museum, New York -Minimal Art, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands -The Art of the Real, The Museum of Modern Art, New York -Group show, Kaymar Gallery, New York (1964). His style--geometric reliefs, box forms, wall structures--became evident. -Group Show, St. Mark’s Church, New York (1963). Included LeWitt’s first three-dimensional works which showed Bauhaus, De Stijl and Constructivism influences. -Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York -Sculpture Annual, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Died of complications from cancer April 8, 2007 (see NY Times obituary 4/9/07)