Sol LeWitt

gigatos | January 9, 2022


Solomon “Sol” LeWitt (; Hartford, September 9, 1928 – New York, April 8, 2007) was an American artist linked to various movements, including conceptual art and minimalism.

He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. His mother encouraged his artistic talents by allowing him to attend a course at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. In 1949, after receiving a BFA from Syracuse University, he traveled to Europe where he studied paintings by the great masters live. Beginning in 1950, he served in the Korean War, first in California, then in Japan, and finally in Korea.

In 1953 he moved to New York and opened a studio in the Lower East Side, in the old Ashkenazi Jewish settlement on Hester Street. During this period he studied at the School of Visual Arts and worked at Seventeen magazine.

In 1955, he worked for a year as a graphic designer in the studio of architect Ieoh Ming Pei. At the same time, he became acquainted with the work of the late nineteenth-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, whose studies of sequence and locomotion were one of his earliest influences. These experiences, combined with an entry-level job as a night receptionist and clerk in 1960 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, had a strong impact on the artist”s later work. At MoMA, LeWitt”s colleagues included artists such as Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin, Gene Beery, and Robert Mangold, as well as future art critic and writer Lucy Lippard.

In 1960, the now-infamous “Sixteen Americans” exhibition (curated by Dorothy Canning Miller, with work by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella) creates a wave of excitement and discussion in the artist community that marks LeWitt. LeWitt also becomes friends with Hanne Darboven, Eva Hesse, and Robert Smithson.

During the late 1960s he taught at several schools in New York, including New York University and the School of Visual Arts.

In 1970, he left New York for Spoleto, Italy, located his studio in the historic center and settled on the slopes of Monteluco, first in a hermitage owned by Marilena Bonomo, then in a tower house purchased near the church of San Pietro. After having returned to the United States at the end of the eighties, he establishes his main residence in Chester, Connecticut.

He died in 2007 in New York, at age 78, of cancer.

He achieved fame in the late 1960s through his Wall drawings and “structures” (a term he preferred to “sculptures”) but was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, painting, installation and artist”s books.

Since 1965, he has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. The first biography of the artist, “Sol LeWitt: A Life of Ideas,” by Lary Bloom, was published by Wesleyan University Press in spring 2019 .


At the beginning of the sixties, he began to create his “structures”, a term he used to describe his three-dimensional work: these are open and modular structures originating from the cube, a form that has influenced the artist”s thinking since the beginning of his career. The “structures” have as their fundamental unit the proportions of the human body, which is why many of them come in at approximately eye level. After creating an initial body of works composed of hand-lacquered wooden objects, in the mid-1960s he decided to “remove the skin altogether and reveal the structure” by creating cubic works consisting of twelve equal linear elements connected at the eight corners to form a skeletal structure.

He has been making many of his large-scale modular structures in aluminum or steel since 1969.

In 1985, the first concrete cube is built in a park in Basel.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, he composed some of his sculptures out of stacked concrete blocks. From 1990 onwards, he created many variations of them.

From the late 1990s the artist moved away from his well-known linear geometric vocabulary and was replaced by a growing interest in irregular curvilinear forms in highly saturated colors.

Wall drawings

In 1968, he began devising a series of guidelines or simple diagrams for his two-dimensional works drawn directly on the wall, executed first in graphite, then crayon, then colored pencil and finally chromatically rich hues of India ink, bright acrylic paint and other materials. Since creating artwork for the Paula Cooper Gallery”s inaugural exhibition in 1968, an exhibit to benefit the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, thousands of LeWitt”s drawings have been installed directly on wall surfaces.

Moving to Spoleto, Italy, in the late 1970s, he attributed his shift from graphite pencil or pastel to vivid ink brushstrokes to his encounter with the frescoes of Giotto, Masaccio and other early Florentine painters. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he created wall drawings in highly saturated colored acrylic. While their shapes are curvilinear, playful and seem almost random, they are also drawn according to a precise set of guidelines. Bands have a standard width, for example, and no colored section can touch another section of the same color.

The wall drawings are usually done by people other than the artist himself. Even after his death, people continue to create these drawings. He would then eventually use teams of assistants to create such works. Writing about making wall drawings, the artist noted in 1971 that “each person draws a line differently and each person understands words differently.” Between 1968 and his death in 2007, he created more than 1,270 wall drawings. The wall drawings, executed on site, generally exist for the duration of an exhibition; they are then destroyed, giving the work in its physical form an ephemeral quality. They can be installed, removed and then reinstalled in another location as often as necessary for exhibition purposes. When relocated to another location, the number of walls can change only by ensuring that the proportions of the original diagram are maintained.


In the 1980s, particularly after a trip to Italy, he began using gouache, a water-based opaque paint, to produce free-flowing abstract works in contrasting colors. These represented a significant departure from the rest of his practice, as he created these works with his own hands. The gouaches are often created in series based on a specific pattern. Earlier series have included irregular shapes, parallel curves, undulating brushstrokes, and spiderweb-like grids .

Artist Books

Since 1966, the artist”s interest in seriality has led to his production of over 50 artist”s books over the course of his career; he later donated many examples to the Wadsworth Athenaeum library.

In 1976 he helped found Printed Matter, Inc, a for-profit art space in New York City”s Tribeca neighborhood with fellow artists and critics. Printed Matter was one of the first organizations dedicated to the creation and distribution of artists” books, incorporating self-publishing, small press publishing, and artist networks and collectives. For LeWitt and others, it also served as a support system for avant-garde artists, balancing its role as publisher, exhibition space, commercial space, and community center for the downtown art scene, in this sense emulating the network of aspiring artists that LeWitt knew and enjoyed as a staff member of the Museum of Modern Art.


  1. Sol LeWitt
  2. Sol LeWitt
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