Sol LeWitt was born September 9, 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut. The only child of Russian Jewish parents, he lived in Hartford, Connecticut until his father died when he was six, then moving to New Britain, Connecticut with his aunt and mother. Although he dismissed art-making as something that "most of us kids do like," as a young boy he displayed a real proclivity for art, in particular, creating "humorous" drawings. While still in Hartford, his mother took him to art classes at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, where they made art while listening to music. LeWitt recalled during one of the classes that his mother made a spontaneous, black circle and encouraged him to do the same. LeWitt attended Syracuse University, receiving his BFA in 1949. After serving as a graphic artist during the Korean War, LeWitt moved to New York in 1953, where he worked as a draftsman for architect, I.M. Pei. Later, taking guard job at the MoMa, New York, he worked with fellow artists Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin, and Robert Mangold.
LeWitt's work ranged from sculpture, painting, and drawing to almost exclusively conceptual pieces that existed only as ideas or elements of the artistic process itself. LeWitt's refined vocabulary of visual art consisted of lines, basic colors and simplified shapes. He applied them according to formulae, which hinted at mathematical equations and architectural specifications, but were not necessarily logical. For LeWitt, the directions for producing a work of art became the work itself; a work was no longer required to have an actual material presence to be art. LeWitt's conceptual pieces often did take on basic form, although not necessarily by his hand. In the spirit of medieval workshops, the master conceives a work and apprentices carry out his instructions, LeWitt provided an assistant with directions for producing a work of art. Instructions were deliberately vague so that the end result was not completely controlled by the artist.
LeWitt earned a place in the history of art for his leading role in the Conceptual movement. He helped establish Conceptual Art and Minimalism of the Post-War era, creating drawings and structures by reducing art to basic shapes and colors. He believed the artist, a generator of ideas, instrumental in the transition from modern to the postmodern. Conceptual art, as an intellectual, pragmatic act, added a new dimension to the artist's role that was distinctly separate from the romantic nature of Abstract Expressionism. He believed the idea itself could be the art, and maintained that, like an architect who creates blueprints and then turns the project over to a construction crew, an artist should be able to conceive a work and then either delegate its production or perhaps even never make it at all. “I wasn’t really that interested in objects, I was interested in ideas. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”
Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007)
Complex Form #6, 1987, at Navy Pier Chicago during EXPO Chicago 2013