June 21, 2024

Dia: Beacon’s presentation of wall drawings by Sol LeWitt from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s was selected by the artist himself.

Wall Drawing #1085, executed in graphite, was conceived in 1968 but not executed as a wall drawing until 2003 at Dia: Beacon, where it remains part of the permanent collection.  So it’s only natural that the museum would make space available for its companion, Wall Drawing #1211, which substitutes black, red, blue, and yellow for graphite.

To complement this monumental presentation, LeWitt chose and sequenced twelve additional works to be executed according to his precise preset instructions.  The result is an extraordinary confluence of clear and cryptic works informed by his singular aesthetic:  “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  All decisions are made beforehand, so execution becomes a perfunctory affair.”

If you only know LeWitt for his bold graphics and daring colors, the wall drawings are a peek into a rigorous and mathematically stringent mind:  Wall Drawing #97 – Ten thousand straight and ten thousand not straight lines; Wall Drawing #69 – Lines not long, not straight, not touching, drawn at random using four colors, uniformly dispersed with maximum density, covering the entire surface of the wall; and Wall Drawing #123 – Copied lines, where the first drafter draws a not straight vertical line as long as possible; the second drafter draws a line next to the first one and tries to copy it; the third drafter does the same, and so on until both ends of the wall are reached.  For all of the necessary precision essential to most conceptual art, there is a rare droll wit and spirit on display here.  As LeWitt himself once famously remarked:  “One should be intelligent enough to know when not to be too intellectual.”

Sol LeWitt, Drawing Series… September 16, 2006—November 2010. Installation view of Wall Drawing #136: Arcs and Lines, 1972. Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Bill Jacobson

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