- Sol Lewitt
- Irregular Progression (Griesdorn)
- a paper certificate for a construction in concrete
Once constructed, Sol LeWitt’s Irregular Progression (Griesdorn) comprises 111 concrete rectangular blocks arranged in columns of different heights suggesting a basic architectural framework or perhaps a city skyline. In the simplicity of its design it recalls the modular cubes of the artist’s early Minimalist works, but it is in fact a striking example of the artist’ contributions as a key proponent of Conceptual Art. In line with LeWitt’s earlier wall-drawings first shown at the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1968, the work is subject to the removal of the artist’s intervention in the creative process. The owner of Irregular Progression acquires only the paper certificate, not the sculpture itself, which they then have to recreate according to specific instructions. When the work changes hands their version must be destroyed and the work rebuilt by the new owner.
In doing this, LeWitt – who always considered himself a Conceptual rather than Minimalist artist – redefined the relationship between artist and artwork in the most radical way. The creative act lies in the conception rather than the execution – a tenet of LeWitt’s corpus of works. Taking inspiration from the Duchampian model, he argued that the idea itself could be art: ‘When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution becomes a perfunctory affair […]. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless’ (quoted in American Art in the 20th Century (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1993, p. 121).
In the 1960s LeWitt had experimented in wood and aluminium, moving to the urban material of concrete in the 1980s. Such a shift in material underlines his focus on an industrial aesthetic, taking a material used in an urban context and appropriating it for artistic purposes. This was part of the democratising process of conceptual art – in which, because perception was subjective, the perception of the viewer was as valid as that of the artist. Discussing his public art works – among which are a number of Irregular Progressions – and their origins in relation to his wall drawings, LeWitt explained the importance of this aspect of his artistic practice: ‘It was a way of questioning the general perception of art as inaccessible. Just as the development of earth art and installation art stemmed from the idea of taking art out of the galleries, the basis of my involvement with public art is a continuation of wall drawings […]. It is available to be seen by everyone. It avoids the preciousness of gallery or museum installations. Also, since art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form only reinforces the concept. It is the idea that is being reproduced’ (quoted in an interview with Saul Ostrow, BOMB Magazine, no. 85, Fall 2003).