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Conceptual Art

Discover how Conceptual artists used language, performance, and instructions to fuel creativity, and sought alternatives to institutional settings.


Language and Art

Explore the role words played in Conceptual art’s emphasis on ideas over visual forms.


Sol LeWitt and Instruction-based Art

Are instructions just a set of rules, or can they fuel creativity? Learn more in this exploration of the work of Sol LeWitt.


Outside the Museum

Discover the work of two artists who thought beyond the confines of a museum.


Performance into Art

For these artists, the body is the medium, and live actions their art.


The use of instructions was a major strategy used by Conceptual artists. Among its principle 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.

Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” p. 80.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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?