Lot 4
  • 4

Sol LeWitt

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Description

  • Sol Lewitt
  • Three-Sided Pyramid
  • baked enamel on aluminium

Provenance

Lisson Gallery, London

Vanthournout Collection, Belgium (acquired from the above in 1995)

Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 14th November 2006, lot 13

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

London, Lisson Gallery, Sol LeWitt: New Structures, 1991

Catalogue Note

Simplification of form has always been a primary concern for Sol LeWitt. Three-Sided Pyramid is a majestic aluminium work emphasising the three-dimensional structure of the pyramid by reducing its geometric shape to its essential form. A pioneering figure in American post-war art, LeWitt departed from the subjective, individualistic tradition of Abstract Expressionism that had dominated the art scene of the 1950s, instead looking to the Constructivist artists of the early twentieth century for inspiration. In particular, the simplification of form and dilution of formalist aesthetics that he found in the Constructivist art of the 1910s appealed to his preoccupation with conceptualist aesthetics.

In the mid-1960s LeWitt experimented with form and open-grid constructions known as his ‘modular structures’ which would influence later works such as Three-Sided Pyramid. Painted in white enamel, these works would become his most celebrated ‘structures’, often incorporating elements of seriality within the structure to create infinite viewing  possibilities. The pyramid had great significance for LeWitt; a mathematical form found prominently in ancient civilisations, it evokes the great pyramids of Egypt and the ziggurat formations of the first complex architectural structures. Much like the cubes, he was attracted to it as a commonplace and widely recognisable shape that offered him a neutral basis from which to build his art. In Three-Sided Pyramid he transforms the shape into a contemporary form thus imbuing it with new meaning. As Lucy R. Lippard has noted: ‘because he designs ‘useless’ items, art has provided the most receptive context, he intuitively works out ideas for which science, mathematics and philosophy, have already provided more sophisticated frameworks, but as art the manipulative intricacy of his process can provide an emotive communication with the viewer impossible in other disciplines (L. R. Lippard, in Sol LeWitt (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978, p. 23).

In the brilliant Minimalist simplicity of Three-Sided Pyramid LeWitt reduces the shape of the pyramid to its ‘skeleton’ - another aspect of his practice developed during the pioneering years of his early career - and by doing this reveals the essential nature of the shape. Even the colour was an inherent element of his desire to avoid any external significance; white, being all colours and none, avoids the expressiveness of black. As the artist Dan Graham stated: ‘LeWitt has structure freed from material content, structure that is no longer the structure of something’ (ibid., p. 26). The purity of this vision with its emphasis on structure over content is at the heart of LeWitt’s art and has, perhaps paradoxically, resulted in a body of work that is much sought-after for its architectural grace and beautiful simplicity.

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