In his description of the tenets of conceptual art, Sol LeWitt famously wrote in 1967 that “the idea is the machine that makes the work of art.” His wall drawings visualize this concept as ephemeral works that exist only as a set of instructions for others to carry out, privileging the artist’s original idea over the act of creation. The artist often likened himself to a composer, and his wall drawings to musical scores: they are realized by others without the creator’s presence or hand, are dependent upon and contextualized by the place in which they are made, and can be “performed” any number of times.
In his wall drawing conceived for the Seattle Art Museum, Seven cubes with color ink washes superimposed (1997), LeWitt explores the cube and grid structures which were of interest to him throughout his career. Here, the cubes are rendered in isometric projections, rejecting the three-dimensionality of a linear perspective and instead emphasizing the flatness of the wall itself. The effect makes the cubes seem to tilt towards the viewer while simultaneously remaining rooted to the wall, calling attention to the connection between the viewer’s space, the drawing, and the architecture.
Please enjoy this video of Catharina Manchanda, SAM's Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, discussing the installation.
Seven cubes with color ink washes superimposed, 1997, Sol LeWitt, American, 1928-2007, India ink washes, 130 x 670 in., Seattle Art Museum,
Gift Of The Artist; Installation donated By Preston, Gates, & Ellis, in honor of William H. Gates, 98.4. © Sol LeWitt.