A pioneering force in post-war American art, Sol LeWitt’s geometric explorations of space, image and meaning was foundational in the development of both the conceptual and minimalist schools of artistic practice. Perhaps most famous for his “wall drawings,” the artist also explored a range of paper and sculptural techniques over the course of his career.
Looking beyond his most recognized works, James Cohan Gallery in New York is currently presenting a selection of LeWitt’s early paper works, titled Torn Cut Folded Ripped, that seeks to exhibit the early works and foundational theory that would inform his later practice.
Commonly referred to as “$100 Drawings,” the works on view showcase LeWitt’s early explorations into conceptual practice, using a pre-established set of principles to inform the creation of art objects. The motion of cutting, tearing, and folding, in LeWitt’s work, serves as an operational technique, a dynamic process of putting thought into practice through a single, rapid act. Maps, newspapers, books and colored fabrics are manipulated through simple processes, yielding new patterns and impressions on the work’s form, and illustrating the impact of the conceptual spark as it creates the final art object.
Through these works, LeWitt is able to examine notions of dislocation and disembodiment, challenging the factual assumptions of maps while playfully tracing his own associations and interpretations into the work. Forcing the viewer to consult the title of the work for additional information on the changes made, LeWitt also made explicit certain subliminal relations between text and image.
Mimicking the grid patterns of post-war, industrial expansion, Lewitt’s early manipulations work with notions of violence and society, drawing harsh lines of division with little regard for the previous arrangement of the image. Forcing the material to realign itself through his own rhetoric of presentation, Lewitt shows the impact of the idea on the object.
Offering a glimpse into the early development of LeWitt’s artistic oeuvre, Torn Cut Folded Ripped also serves as an introduction to many of the tenants of conceptual and minimalist practice that defined the American art scene of the 60’s and 70’s.
The show closes on February 9th.
James Cohan Gallery