Sol LeWitt – Instructions and Procedural Actions

Sol LeWitt’s belief of the artist being the generator of ideas was instrumental in the transitions from the modern to the postmodern era. His art is considered to be a milestone in the transition from the minimalism of the 60’s to the concept art of the 70’s. LeWitt’s idea of producing a set of instructions that are both specific and open-ended resulted in work of arts produced by assistants, that showed the interpretations made by the individuals producing the art. In doing this LeWitt is showcasing the idea of the concept becoming a machine which makes the art. The emphasis of his work was mainly focused on the idea of the artist being the generator which was the instrumental element in the transition from the modern to the postmodern era.

The work functions through a list of instructions and procedural actions which allow an individual to replicate his artworks. An example of this process includes ‘Wall Drawing #370’ where LeWitt abstracts the image through a simple sentence: “Ten geometric Figures (including right triangle, cross, X, diamond) with three-inch parallel bands of lines in two directions”. LeWitt composed this design to allow flexibility within a broad architectural setting, which allows for it to become adaptable and easily produced by many other individuals.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing #370 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although LeWitt did not personally create the artworks after producing the fundamental steps in the instructions, when handing over the instructions to others it allowed the works to be varied according to the interpretations which was made by the individual producing it. However, in doing this the interpretation of the instructions were generally similar to what was originally planned for the artwork.

The instructions are broken down into procedural steps, which make the process of developing his artworks more flexible. This is seen through the previously mentioned instructions from wall drawing #370: “Ten geometric Figures (including right triangle, cross, X, diamond) with three-inch parallel bands of lines in two directions”. Where LeWitt overall explains the artwork that he wants to be produced by stating the aesthetic or overall theme of the artwork rather then describing the process of artwork itself. LeWitt overall gives the interpreter enough information to direct them which is seen in the section of that instruction “Ten geometric figure”, “Three inch parallel bands” and “two directions” as well as the description of the figures to use: right triangles, cross etc.

This is showcased in the following Youtube video, where a group of volunteers are re-creating this piece. 



The historical and cultural context of the cultural art movement showed that idea of the art being more hierarchical then the visual components. Conceptional artists were successful in redefining the concepts of their work and in all gather an acceptance with art collectors or galleries. The idea of “ready made” conceptional art was further introduced though Marcel Duchamp, who found objects that were chosen by artists to be a work of art without any other adjustments made then a signature.
This idea of “ready made” artworks was further pushed with the production of Fountain in 1917, which was just a porcelain urinal that was placed on a stand and signed as if a piece of artwork. This became controversial in a way, because it was presenting the idea that artist was able to purchase everyday items and call them pieces of art with having very limited input in the piece. Duchamp who established the idea of “ready made” art described it as an anti-rental and dismissed the overall consensus that the works of art needed to at least demonstrate some artistic skills by the artist. This idea also becomes present in the LeWitt’s ideologies, where he states that the artist becomes the generator which is the most instrumental element in the focus of the art.

To conclude, the ideas that are presented through these eras are ones are interesting as there becomes a shift in the change of perception in art. Because of this change in art, artists were able to express themselves through different means. When looking at the ways in which LeWitt produced art, it’s interesting to see how his artworks were interpreted and overall presented in galleries. His work allowed for artist to explore different forms of art and play with the overall process of art making.





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