American Masters – NGA: Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing No. 380 a–d 1982 dramatically curves around the entrance and exit to th National Gallery of Australia’s American Masters Exhibition. It dominates the first room with its seemingly simple but deceptive forms; none is a cube or rectangular cuboid; they are all incomplete pyramids.

The work only exists when it is painted, and LeWitt prepared detailed instructions on how to do it. This completely disrupts the traditional concept of a painted artwork being a unique object worthy of preserving and unable to be produced again in its exact form, even by the artist who painted it.

On display for the second time since its acquisition in 1987, art students rag-painted the background, and professional artists did the forms. The process of creating the work on this occassion seemed reminiscent of  Renaissance painters’ workshop practice where students and apprentices painted the less important areas while the principal artist worked on the key subjects.

Another interesting point about this particular rendering of the artwork is the curved surface. The first showing of the work was on a flat wall, creating a different feel as the photo on the ANG website shows. When the show closes on November 11 the artwork will be painted over in preparation for the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition, and will once again only exist as a possibility – an idea to be realised at another time.

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