When considering the work of conceptual artist, Sol LeWitt, and executing his work, it’s important to understand the nature of conceptual art and understanding translation and transmission.
To start I’d like to break down the idea of conceptual art.
Conceptual art focuses on ideas behind the work rather than the form or visual components of the art itself. It emphasizes the ideas and concepts over what we simply perceive it to be. From the mid 1960s to 1970s, works were created that completly rejected the standard ideals of art at the time.
Conceptual artists claim that “aesthetics, expression, skill and marketability were all irrelevant standards by which art was usually judged.”
There is a whole lot more to be said of conceptual art that can be found here.
Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings are a great example of conceptual art. The drawings are based on instructions written by LeWitt. These instructions can be carried out by anyone on any wall. Anyone can have a Sol LeWitt drawing in their house. There are hundreds of instructions, here are a few.
The beauty of these instructions is in the interpretation. Any of these instructions could have one or more ways of interpretation, and depending on the way it’s read and the predispositions of the reader and artist, every LeWitt wall drawing is inherently different.
Here is two interpretations of the instructions above.
And this is where LeWitt’s concept becomes clear. The concept in the art here is transmitting and translation.
LeWitt is transmitting his art through written instruction. No diagrams of it’s physical appearance, only the method to creating the appearance. This is in turn translated by the drawer and created based on the understanding of the instructions. LeWitt is transmitting a message that is read and interpreted. As you can see above, the same instructions have been translated differently. LeWitt comments:
“Once it is out of his hand the artist has no control over the way a viewer will perceive the work.”
Sol LeWitt has created not only hundred of instructions but the following artists have created hundreds of variations of them.
And all this is because of Transition and Translation.
LeWitt’s message is transmitted though the written word. Simply his idea materialized in English words. The appearance of the drawing is conceived in his mind and then expressed in words.
But every instruction is the same.
The message is then translated by the reader who interrupts how the instructions should be carried out. The message will be interpreted differently depending on the readers understanding of the words. Essentially, the very small ways which our understandings of language differ, create very clear visual differences.
In terms of Sol LeWitt’s execution of conceptual art his work is a perfect representation of the style. The instructional art is an amazing portrayal of the concept of transition and translation. Every iteration of the artwork is another example of the concept at work. Some of the instructions are intentionally convoluted to create more complex drawings, or simple to be confusing in and of themselves.
The transmitting of the messages are deliberately confusing to add to the difficulty of the translation, creating even more variations of the instructions. Each and every wall drawing is an expression of LeWitt’s concept of transition and translation.
The wall drawings, though the differences in appearance, are an excellent representation of transmitting and translation and how it works in an art medium. LeWitt has captured conceptualism and the concept of both transmitting and translation. All while being redesigned and re-translated over and over. The drawings aren’t confined to a gallery. The message can be interpreted in any house on any wall.
Here Are the Instructions for Sol LeWitt’s 1971 Wall Drawing for the School of the MFA Boston