At that line: Sol LeWitt’s meditative spaces at AGNSW








Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #303: Two part drawing. 1st part: circle, square, triangle, superimposed (outlines). 2nd part: rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, superimposed (outlines), 1977, black crayon, dimensions variable.


Recently I spent some time with the big Sol LeWitt exhibition that forms part of the Kaldor Family Collection at AGNSW. Kaldor and LeWitt were friends over many years, with Kaldor being an avid admirer and patron of LeWitt’s work. It was wonderful to spend some time amongst pieces which spanned the many decades of LeWitt’s practice.

I’ve said it before, I know , but I’m always attracted to artists who demonstrate faithfulness to their craft. It’s an attitude that sings to me, and I  find a renewed sense of dedication to my own work. LeWitt is definitely in that category.

Starting out in the 1950s with a vision that ran counter to that of the highly fashionable Abstract Expressionist painters, he was interested in objectivity and logic. He was a famous champion for conceptual practice, stating  that ‘the idea is the machine that makes art’ (‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, 1967.) He was not interested in getting sexy with materials, nor with the trace of the artist’s presence and emotions.  He was interested in ideas about directions of lines; series and sequences – and in following these ideas to logical conclusions, a project which at times took years.












Rectangle (open), 1977.  This work invites us to consider where the art is located.


LeWitt is probably most famous for his Wall Drawings, an idea he pursued and developed over decades. Basically they consisted of instructions for the works to be manifested  onto any wall at any time, by either himself or accredited technicians. The idea was the art. The actual instrumental creation of it was a consequence of the art, not the art itself.

All his works come with a signed certificate. The instructions (as with Wall Drawing #303, top of this page) are more or less detailed, and deliberately allow for random factors due to geography or the personnel executing them. On one hand then, it’s objective; clinical even. On the other, it’s inviting the unexpected and the essentially human into the mix. It’s a curious combination of ideas that ends up, unexpectedly, being sometimes quite touching. For instance, Wall Drawing #1274, below:








Wall Drawing #1274, being executed by Jemima Flett at AGNSW. Photograph by Peter Rae.


This is a quiet giant. There is a gradation of tone from dark edges to a lightly textured, glowing centre that extends along 14 metres of wall space. This means that the viewer spends time walking along the work; there is a temporal aspect to it. It involves our bodies (as many Minimalist works did, in the 1960s/70s) and makes us aware of walls and floors in new ways. The work took a month to create and on this occasion does indeed necessarily involve the expressive hand of the technicians in the squiggles that make up the tone. It is obviously such a mammoth effort, and so much larger than life size that we are reminded of our frailty; our tendency to fatigue and error. In other words, we are at the edge of the Sacred and certainly the Romantic.

I was glad to see that it was not just me who responds in this way to LeWitt’s work. Daniel Thomas, writing in 1977 in The Bulletin, said:

   “in fact LeWitt’s art is readily experienced Romantically by the spectator. The variations with a repeatable structure can seem like Bach’s variations on a musical theme, to symbolise the wonder of creativity”.










Wall drawing #1091: arcs, circles and bands (room), 2003

Later years saw a foray into bold colour, although the geometry and the logical sequences were still there (perhaps less apparent.) AGNSW has reconstructed an installation originally created for the Kaldor home with Wall Drawing #1091, above.  It is an exuberant expression of Life something akin to the logic and beauty of a Mandelbrot unit. Mathematic; logical; sequential; vital.