Riding the Waves
Sol LeWitt at Paula Cooper, NYC
Sol LeWitt is one of the more notable artists to emerge from the conceptualism of the 1960s. He is known for his wall drawings executed purely by written instruction, making each iteration different than the last. His sculptures of stacked cubes are well-known too, with their rigid logic. However, LeWitt created many gouaches, especially late in his career. At a new show at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York City, his large gouaches from the 1990s and 2000s are brought together for a more careful examination.
Unlike those previously mentioned wall drawings, these works are a return to a traditional form of art making, which is to say that LeWitt created these himself while in his studio. They feature abstract patterns that are often repeated throughout the exhibition. The three most prominent expressions of this are brushstrokes, grids, and waves. These abstract designs, along with their large scale create a pulsating effect. LeWitt’s sharp eye for color only enhances this visual energy.
Although these works may seem surprisingly conservative at first glance for a more conceptual artist like LeWitt, they are actually quite studied works. Pieces like Brushstrokes or Tangled Bands might suggest more expressionistic, abstract, painterly results. However, while these works are certainly a departure for the artist, they are rooted in logic and measured design. Irregular Grid is maze-like and vibrant yet is contained, flat, and although irregular, it obviously does work with the concept of grids (and therefore, order).
This is a modest show for a monumental figure, but that isn’t a complaint. In fact, it’s refreshing when you can approach an artist in a new and more intimate fashion. Here, we see artwork by LeWitt when he was late in his career, and yet he was still experimenting with different methods of art production.