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Sol LeWitt

Biography

Sol LeWitt was born on September 9th, 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut to Eastern European immigrants. His father, a doctor and inventor, died when he was 6. Soon after, he moved with his mother, a nurse, to live with an aunt in New Britain, Connecticut. His mother took him to art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and he would draw on wrapping paper from his aunt’s grocery store.
 
LeWitt received a BFA from Syracuse University in 1949 (where he made his first prints) and then was drafted in the Korean War in 1951. During his service, he made posters for the Special Services and spent time in Japan, where he bought the first works that became the basis of a large personal art collection.
 
In 1953, he moved to New York City, where he studied at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now the School of Visual Arts) and worked for Seventeen Magazine, making paste-ups, mechanicals and Photostats. He was then hired as a graphic designer in I.M. Pei’s architecture firm.

 

In 1960, he took an entry-level job at the Museum of Modern Art, where he met Dan Flavin, Robert Ryman, Lucy Lippard and Robert Mangold. Together, through the “Sixteen Americans” exhibition, they were introduced to the work of Jasper Johns and Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg.
 
LeWitt was also interested in Russian Constructivism, with its engineering aesthetic and the idea of making utilitarian art in an industrialized age. However, the work that influenced him the most was Eadweard Muybridge’s serial photography, sequential studies of people and animals in motion, which he came across in a book that somebody had left in his apartment. LeWitt’s work from the early 1960s, works on canvas coated with thick gestural oil paint, each featured one of Muybridge’s figures in motion.

In the exhibition catalogue for Think with Senses – Feel with Mind, Art in the Present, part of the 2007 Venice Biennale, Robert Storr wrote that LeWitt “proved over and over again that the strict, systematic realization of a singular working premise is bound to produce results that will surprise both the maker and the viewer by exceeding expectation and giving eye-and-mind expanding physical dimensions to mental abstractions.” Until 2033, LeWitt’s wall drawings are the subject of a solo exhibition titled Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
 
Sol LeWitt died in 2007 in New York City.