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Installing Sol LeWitt

POSTED BY , ON June 22, 2010, 7 COMMENTS

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Over the last three weeks, visitors to the Art Institute have been able to witness the creation (or more accurately, re-creation) process firsthand. As part of the upcoming exhibition Contemporary Collecting: Selections from the Donna and Howard Stone Collection (opening this Friday, June 25), a draftsman from the LeWitt Foundation has been working with staff from the Art Institute’s contemporary art department to “create” Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1111: A Circle with Broken Bands of Color (2003) in the Modern Wing’s Griffin Court, in full view of the public.

For those of you unfamiliar with LeWitt’s work, much of it doesn’t exist like most artworks do, as a tangible painting, drawing, or sculpture. Rather, it is a list of instructions on how to create the artwork. As a conceptual artist, LeWitt believed that it wasn’t the finished work that was the “art”; art instead begins and ends with an idea.

I spoke with Matt Stolle, a fellow in our prints and drawings department and a “technical painter” for the contemporary art department, who is one of the AIC staffers installing the piece. Here’s what he had to say about the process and how it feels to reproduce such an esteemed artist’s work.

Can you describe the process of creating the work?

It’s essentially a giant tape painting. After the outline of the image is drawn on the wall with pencil, areas of the wall/image are masked off with drafting and masking tapes. The areas of wall that are left bare are then able to be painted. When the tape is removed, you’re left with a clean edge. The process pretty much follows that pattern: mask off, paint, remove the masking, mask off the painted areas, and on and on.

Is everything predetermined or is there any room for interpretation?

The general layout and colors to be used are predetermined. Also, there are certain rules within the piece that we have to follow. For example, no one block of color should ever come into contact with another block of the same color, no yellows touching yellows, etc. It seems as if the exact order of the colors in the circular bands can be open for interpretation. However, I know that Takashi, the draftsman from the LeWitt foundation, brought a schematic with him that we’ve been following.

How long will creating the LeWitt take from start to finish?

Three weeks

What type of paint are you using?

Lascaux acrylics

Is it strange/weird/fun/nervewracking to execute another artist’s work? Especially when that artist is as well known as LeWitt?

I would say it’s definitely fun and exciting. It also feels like a privilege. LeWitt is such a dominant force, completely respected.  It’s not so much nervewracking, because I’m working along side a draftsman/artist who’s been installing these pieces in museums for thirty years. There’s a huge amount of comfort in that. Also, being an artist myself I’m familiar with the materials, etc. It’s maybe a little intimidating at first because you want the execution of all the separate parts to be perfect, but once you get into the flow of working, you realize it’s all a matter of following the steps.  Even if there were a “mistake,” it’s all very easy to fix.

Did I miss any important questions for Matt? Ask away in the comments. And see below for more images (in chronological order), or click through to our Flickr page for an even more complete list.

Installation of Wall Drawing #1111: A Circle with Broken Bands of Color wraps up on Thursday and the exhibition opens to the public on Friday.

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Picture 7

Picture 6

All images courtesy of Jason Stec.

7 Responses to “Installing Sol LeWitt”

  1. ” A tape painting?’
    i will read the rest of the article later but think that Matt is up the creek.

  2. Kris Baldo says:

    My daughter and I were at the Art Institute two days ago and saw the work that was being done on this project. I find it fascinating and can’t wait to see the result.

  3. Wendi says:

    Love the post! It’s nice to see and hear your employees!

  4. Tracy says:

    I saw the work last week. My friends and I discussed that the balance seemed very “off” because of the yellows next to yellows, blues next to blues, etc. So when I just read this article I was shocked by the explanation about rules. “For example, no one block of color should ever come into contact with another block of the same color, no yellows touching yellows, etc.” What is up with that?

  5. Katie R. says:

    Hi Tracy,

    Check out the final images (above). I know it initially seemed like some of the colors would end up touching—I thought the same thing—but all are separated.

    Thanks for writing,
    Katie R.

  6. this is an apology to Matt….

    sorry about the ‘up the creek”….comment.
    read the article again and it was nice…. except for you-know-what
    who did come from the Estate to do the drawing?
    rhona hoffman

  7. Katie R. says:

    Hi Rhona,

    Takashi Araki came from the LeWitt Foundation to install.

    Thanks,
    Katie R.