Asked once if he was the originator of wall drawings, LeWitt answered, “I think the cave men came first.” Sol LeWitt has never been interested in standard notions of authorship, ownership or originality. An early pioneer of Conceptualism, his photographs, sculpture and, particularly the drawing installations, have been a pointed criticism of the traditional art object so revered in the Western high art tradition. In creating an artwork, LeWitt acts more as a composer or director than a traditional visual artist, creating a set of instructions such as “vertical lines, not straight, not touching, covering the wall” and leaving the handiwork to his assistants. Motivated by a desire to make a work of art as two-dimensional as possible, LeWitt has created over 300 wall drawings. Originally developed from four basic kinds of lines and adapted to architectural space, they incorporate elements of chance and impermanence. At the close of an exhibition, drawings are painted over, the artwork erased. Preciousness, scarcity and the singularity of the artist’s touch have no place in LeWitt’s world. “Ideas,” says LeWitt, “cannot be owned. They belong to whoever understands them.”
A major force in Minimal and Conceptual movements of the 1960’s, Sol LeWitt has influenced the community of artists, designers, writers and musicologists with his work as well as his thinking. His first one-person exhibition in New York was in 1965. Since then he has had major exhibitions at museums around the world including the Tate Gallery, London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. The Museum of Modern Art, New York exhibited a mid-career retrospective in 1978 and a print retrospective in 1996. A major exhibition is being planned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the year 2000.