What an idea looks like

|“Those who understand art only by what it looks like often do not understand very much at all.” -Sol LeWitt, 1973|

For reasons most people will not understand, I’m excited about a little work recently added to my collection of ephemera by the artist Sol LeWitt. Part of the reason this work resonates more than many others is due to the evolution of my goals as a collector. More than other items, many of which frankly offer more pleasing aesthetics, this drawing exemplifies the ideas that draw me to the artist. And to LeWitt’s stated goals as an artist.

Sol LeWitt Wall Sketch. An original conception of a wall drawing intended for an exhibit at the John Weber gallery in March of 1986The pencil sketch was likely the original conception of a wall drawing intended for an exhibit at the John Weber gallery in March of 1986. I have the invitation to that particular show, and now the working drawing for a signature piece from the exhibit. Further, LeWitt was meticulous in documenting his output, and in a catalog of wall drawings published in 1989, this work can be clearly identified as #472. Its most unique attribute is that it was gray – no colors were used, even for the background. As with so many of the wall drawings designed for specific exhibitions, the assumption was that the work would eventually be painted over, as was the case here. My research has not yet – and may never – come up with a photo of the actual painting.

In the drawing we see LeWitt thinking about the color scheme (for lack of a better term), and in his published description of Wall Drawing #472, we see the final work matches this one. Each number represents how many coats of gray were applied to each segment. Curiously, While “5” indicates five-coats (the darkest), “1” indicates three-coats and “3” indicating one layer of gray (the lightest). The inscription “for Cosimo” implies that the drawing was given to the son of gallery owner, and long time LeWitt booster, John Weber. That the drawing was of little value even at the time is demonstrated by a note, hastily scribbled on the back in ballpoint pen, about a lost bead from an earring.

And all this has what to do with my collection of LeWitt artwork? From early on in his professional career, LeWitt emphasized that the idea was more important than the final artifact – painting, sculpture, wall drawing, etc… This little drawing provides insight into the decision making process of a guy who was most interested in the process.

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