Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective
A collaboration between Yale University Art Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art
Wall Drawing 343A,B,C,D,E,F
On a black wall, nine geometric figures (including right triangle, cross, X) in squares. The backgrounds are filled in solid white.
White crayon on black wall
A,B,C (Square, Circle, Triangle): Private collection, Switzerland, courtesy of BFAS
Blondeau Fine Arts Services
D, E, F (Rectangle, Trapezoid, Parallelogram): Courtesy of the Estate of Sol LeWitt
Larry Gagosian Gallery, Venice
First Drawn By
MASS MoCA Building 7
By the 1970s, Sol LeWitt had expanded his formal vocabulary (previously straight lines in four directions) to include arcs, not-straight lines, broken lines, and geometric shapes. At first the artist limited these to ‘primary shapes,’ which he defined as circle, square and triangle. Wall Drawing 343 A,B,C, created in 1980, exhibits an extended geometric vocabulary. In its original installation the drawing featured nine figures: the three primary shapes, the three ‘secondary shapes’ (rectangle, trapezoid, and parallelogram) and a cross, an X, and a right triangle. At MASS MoCA, the wall drawing contains only the primary and secondary shapes.
As the range of forms LeWitt used evolved, so did the way they were drawn. The earliest wall drawings featuring shapes depicted only linear outlines of the forms. Later, the artist filled the outlined forms with parallel lines. In the instructions for Wall Drawing 343 LeWitt directed draftsmen to paint the wall black and then to fill squares around the boundaries of the shapes in white scribble; thus the negative space created by the background determines the shape. Other works of the period, such as Triangle (1980), rendered in ink on paper, and Wall Drawing 351 (1981), rendered in crayon, also use the scribble technique. A variation of this technique reemerged in a series of graphite wall drawings done between 2005 and 2007.
LeWitt used 8H or 9H graphite sticks in his first wall drawings, but by 1971 had introduced smudge-free Caran d’Arche crayon. The temperature of the new medium became an important consideration for the draftsmen. When cold, the crayons became brittle, producing a flaky line. Draftsmen at MASS MoCA combated this by warming the crayon in their hands before application. This makes the wax easier to distribute, allowing enough crayon so that the surface looks white from a distance without compromising the texture of the wall. If the wax becomes too warm, the crayon smothers the orange peel-like surface of the wall. In the event of a build-up, the draftsmen use razor blades to scrape off the excess wax.