Not Rock Hudson: Sol LeWitt

Andréa Fernandes

Two readers, Corrine and Hill-Dawg, requested a post on the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). Today is the 80th anniversary of his birth, so to celebrate, we'll take a look at his life and his art.

1. One of Sol LeWitt's early jobs was with Seventeen magazine. In the 1950s, while he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he worked at Seventeen doing paste-ups, mechanicals, and Photostats. He later worked for a year as a graphic designer for architect I.M. Pei.

2. LeWitt strongly believed that art should not be about the artist. He apparently turned down awards and interviews over the years in an attempt to suppress all interest in himself, instead of his work. Greatly disliking the prospect of his photograph in the newspaper, he once covered his face at a museum opening, explaining to the newspaper photographer, "I am not Rock Hudson." His "Autobiography" work (1980) consisted of more than 1,000 photographs of his apartment, yet he only appeared in one—one in which he was barely discernible.

3. Believing, "There is no reason why a piece shouldn't look as it was when it was made," LeWitt allowed repainting of his structures (or sculptures), especially the white ones, when they became dirty or discolored. He remarked, "I would like to have my work to always be as it was when it was made."

4. Many of LeWitt's works, especially his wall drawings, were of a recipe nature, in that he wrote out instructions and someone else—a draftsman—actually created the work. Yet such a format was not acceptable for all his works. When "Standing Open Structure, Back" (1964) was requested for an overseas exhibit, the museum asked LeWitt if it could be recreated at the first site of the exhibition. LeWitt declined, asking, "Would you repaint a Mondrian?"

A larger version of LeWitt's 1992 untitled lithograph (left) is available here, while a larger version of his "Splotch #15" (right) is available here. Fans should check out LeWitt's "Sentences on Conceptual Art;" his collections at Marian Goodman Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the MoMA; and the New York Times' LeWitt photo gallery. Current & Upcoming Exhibitions:Wall Drawing #139 (Northampton, Massachusetts: through January 4, 2009)Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective (North Adams, Massachusetts: opens November 16, 2008) "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.