Color Ink Wash
First drawn by: David Higginbotham, Anthony Sansotta, Jo Watanabe
First installation: Brooklyn Museum, New York, May 1985
Current installation July 2021: Sarah Heinemann, Tyler O'Grady, Lewis Turley
LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut
Installed at the Health and Wellness Center through 2025
Sol LeWitt employed a minimalist style in his drawings, working towards the simplification of the expression of geometrical figures. In Wall Drawing #436, on loan to Brown for several years, five asymmetrical and colored triangles resemble the unfolded faces of a pentagonal pyramid. Originating from the upper left corner of the wall, they are connected and project themselves to the lower half, gesturing towards perspective. The triangles are polychromatic, with hues of subdued green, orange, and purple, floating on a dusty yellow background. This combination of complementary colors encourages the gaze of the viewer to shift from one block to the next, promoting a sense of movement while echoing the effects of optical art, which influenced the artist’s early work.
The work of Sol LeWitt reflects his contact with various movements of mid-20th-century American art. Deriving inspiration from minimalism and constructivism, his wall drawings and “structures” are amalgams of many of the artistic styles of his time. When LeWitt worked at the reception of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, he familiarized himself with the works of Josef Albers and Jasper Johns in MoMA’s collection. His relationships with fellow artists Dan Flavin and Robert Ryman were also influential, as their use of color and geometrical shapes can be perceived in LeWitt’s art.
LeWitt was the first to use “Conceptual Art” in reference to his work, debuting the term in his 1967 essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” which proposed that, “the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work,” affirming the execution of the idea as a secondary value. For LeWitt and his conceptual art peers, the value of art lies in the quality of the idea rather than its physical form, as in LeWitt’s words: “Conceptual art is good only when the idea is good.” The artist intended for his work to be ephemeral, reproducible on any wall (with the artist and estate’s full permission) following the instructions that he wrote for this purpose. The drawing on view at Brown was originally executed at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and is now located in Brown University’s Health and Wellness Center, merging with the wood and glass setting and engaging viewers both inside and outside the building.
Sol LeWitt (b. Hartford, CT, 1928; d. New York, NY, 2007) received his BFA from Syracuse University and subsequently enrolled in the Cartoonists & Illustrators School (now School of Visual Arts) while working at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. His work is included in numerous major national and international collections. Multiple large-scale retrospectives were mounted during his lifetime including Sol LeWitt, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1978); Sol LeWitt: Drawings 1958-1992, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands (1992); Sol LeWitt: Structures 1962-1993, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, United Kingdom (1993); and Sol LeWitt: A Retrospective, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2000). The most substantial retrospective opened the year after his death and was organized by Yale University Gallery of Art, New Haven, CT; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (MASS MOCA); and Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA. Opened in 2008 at MASS MOCA, one-hundred of LeWitt’s wall drawings will be on view through 2043.