The use of instructions was a major strategy used by Conceptual artists. Among its principal originators was Sol LeWitt, whose instructions for several series of geometric shapes or detailed line drawings, made directly on the wall surface, sometimes took teams of people days or weeks to execute.
The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.
A long mark or stroke.
Resembling or using the simple rectilinear or curvilinear lines used in geometry.
Art that emerged in the late 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. In 1967, the artist Sol LeWitt gave the new genre its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.”
Questions & Activities
The Wit of Sol LeWitt
In “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” LeWitt wrote, “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”1 What do you think he meant by this statement? Summarize your ideas in a brief essay (200 words or less) describing your interpretation.
Interpreting LeWitt’s Instructions
Sol LeWitt often hired people to execute his written instructions for works of art. Have someone read LeWitt’s instructions (below) to you while you carry them out. You’ll need a black crayon, a ruler, and paper. After you’re done drawing, switch roles and read the instructions to your partner while he or she draws.
WORK FROM INSTRUCTIONS (1971):
USING A BLACK, HARD CRAYON DRAW A TWENTY INCH SQUARE.
DIVIDE THIS SQUARE INTO ONE INCH SQUARES. WITHIN EACH
ONE INCH SQUARE, DRAW NOTHING, OR DRAW A DIAGONAL
STRAIGHT LINE FROM CORNER TO CORNER OR TWO CROSSING
STRAIGHT LINES DIAGONALLY FROM CORNER TO CORNER.
Are there differences between the two drawings you made? Is it because the drawer did not correctly follow the instructions or is it because LeWitt’s written instructions can be interpreted in different ways?