Artist Sol LeWitt began making his artwork series called “Wall Drawings” in 1968, which eventually and until his death, would use instructions (algorithms) for the design of such creations and teams of assistants for the execution of these pieces.
This 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 many times as required for exhibition purposes. All this “Wall Drawings” consist of the following documents: a letter of instruction, an installation diagram and a certificate that represent the transfer of ownership from the artist to the buyer.
Since the wall drawings do not constitute freestanding, portable works of art like a framed canvas or a sculpture on a podium, documentation of the work is key to transmitting it, conservation and restoration, or selling it to a collector or institution. The original certificate, issued and signed by the artist, may be considered the “real” art piece which then can be transformed into a commodity (LYDIATE, 2012).
LeWitt not only made a clever use of Intellectual Property Rights, but also borrowed from the emergent discourses of information and communication theory in order to re-conceptualise the relationship between artist, art work and viewer. In his own words: “The artist’s aim is not to instruct the viewer, but to give information, whether the viewer understands the information is incidental to the artist” (1966).
The language he used to describe his work’s mode transmitting information like a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s was without a doubt derived from Claude Shannon’s theories presented in the book “The Mathematical Theory of Communication”. Since Shannon’s study originated in the field of cryptology we can understand that LeWitt understood his artistic practice as a process of transmission, where the fundamental mission of the work of art is communication (LOVATT, 2017).
LeWitt neutralised the materiality and took the further step of virtually denying an independent object existence to his art. His mysticism, unlike Bernini’s or Mondrian’s, wasn’t representational or related to religion or nature. Instead Sol Lewitt’s attitude was a secular one,with a syntax related to computerised mathematics (REISE, 1969). Consequently his work is the most logical conclusion to the idea of art as ensuring digital kind of immortality. Even with the most diligent preservation, works will deteriorate and transmute over time. If your art is your idea and your instructions, each time it is created it is new: this is eternal youth and constant rebirth (GOSLING, 2015).
All in all, Sol Le Witt’s “Wall Drawings” are immortal paintings…
- Gosling, E. (2015) “From designing Seventeen mag to defining conceptual art: Sol Lewitt”. It’s Nice That magazine (London).
- Lovatt, A. “Ideas in Transmission: LeWitt’s Wall Drawings and the Question of Medium”, Tate Papers, no.14, Autumn 2010, URL = <http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/14/ideas-in-transmission-lewitt-wall-drawings-and-the-question-ofmedium> accessed 10 June 2018.
- Lydiate, H. (2012) “Authenticating Sol LeWitt”, Art Monthly Issue 358 (London). URL = <https://www.artquest.org.uk/artlaw-article/authenticity-certificates-value/> accessed 10 June 2018.
- Reise, B. (1969) “Untitled 1969: A Footnote on Art and Minimal Stylehood”. Studio International 1969; 177(910): 166–172.
*(Picture: imageobjecttext.com & desktopmag.com.au)