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Sol Lewitt

The installation is made possible by a grant from Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.

Sol LeWitt on the Roof

Splotches, Whirls, and Twirls

April 26–October 30, 2005

Over the fifty or so years of his artistic career, Sol LeWitt (American, b. 1928) has worked as a painter, a creator of large two-dimensional works he terms wall drawings, a creator of three-dimensional works (these he prefers to call structures rather than sculptures), and a practitioner of various graphic arts: gouaches, prints, posters, books, and book design. He is most esteemed for his emphasis on the originating idea behind a work of art. In 1967 he wrote: "No matter what form [the work] may finally have, it must begin with an idea." The execution or realization of the idea could be and was assigned by LeWitt to other workers, a practice he continues.

This exhibition presents the twelve-feet-tall Splotch #15, 2004 (fabricated 2005); the twelve-foot-long Splotch #3, 2000; three vertical six-and-a-half-foot-tall works—Splotch #5, 2002, Splotch #7, 2002, and Splotch #8, 2002. The thirty-two-foot-long Wall Drawing #1152 Whirls and Twirls, 2005, painted in acrylic, employs the three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—and the three secondary colors—green, orange, and purple—and echoes the abstract forms and vivid colors of three of the Splotches.

In a shift away from his well-known geometric vocabulary of forms—for example, the many variations of white, open, modular structures based on the cube, such as the Incomplete Open Cubes of the early 1970s—the Splotches and Wall Drawing #1152 Whirls and Twirls on the Roof Garden this summer indicate vividly the artist's growing interest in somewhat random curvilinear shapes and highly saturated colors.

In the late 1990s, LeWitt moved from making large gouaches in rather subdued colors and wall drawings in subdued ink washes to using bright acrylic colors. He used bright acrylic paints on a group of free-form fiberglass objects of 1999. These he called Non-Geometric Forms, as if to announce that he wanted to change radically "to something not geometrical." The Splotches, in turn, grew from these 1999 forms.

LeWitt has been collaborating for six years with sculpture fabricator Yoshitsugu Nakama to translate his two-dimensional, hand-drawn designs—which present the works from a bird's-eye view, drawings LeWitt terms "footprints"—into three-dimensional forms. LeWitt makes two versions of each structure, one that indicates different color divisions of the works and the other indicating the heights of the colored sections. LeWitt's designs are scanned into Nakama's computer and refined with a succession of software programs, including one that enables the artist and fabricator to see an illusion of the structure in three-dimensional form. Nakama then slices the image of the three-dimensional structure at two-inch intervals. These "slices" are printed and pasted onto slices of construction foam and then stacked and glued on top of one another. This rough structure is then carved and smoothed using rasps and sandpaper. Epoxy resin and fiberglass are applied to reinforce the foam, and the structure is made smoother with more layers of epoxy compound. Paint is applied using two or three coats of primers, three or four coats of colors, and six to eight coats of varnish.

Since 1968, LeWitt has made more than one thousand wall drawings. Wall Drawing #1152 Whirls and Twirls was designed to complement the five Splotches. It has been executed in the same acrylic colors by a team of four painters, who worked on the Roof Garden for about four weeks—Takeshi Arita, Sarah Heinemann, Gabriel Hurier, and Chie Shimizu. When the exhibition is over, this version of the wall drawing will be destroyed.

Related Installation

Two dramatic concrete-block structures by LeWitt—Circle with Towers and Curved Wall with Towers—are on view (May 1–December 31, 2005) at Madison Square Park, between 23rd and 26th Streets. The installation is organized by the Madison Square Park Conservancy.