Having explored multiple permutations of lines of different colors and directions in his drawings for several years, from straight lines to curved arcs with changing midpoints, Sol LeWitt then looked into the possibilities of contrasting these systematic arrangements with others that might seem chaotic by comparison. Choosing a random given as the starting point for the parameters of a structure and continuing from there, opens up a realm of unexpected potential. In 1973 LeWitt began creating works that focused on the position of points and lines on the plane, describing these in words and also incorporating the words into the drawing. As so often in his oeuvre, the idea brought forth surprising visual results. LeWitt expanded this new concept to other areas of his work and published several artist’s books in which he demonstrated this placement of points, lines, and geometric figures. He was fascinated by the paradox that a detailed and consistently formulated description, and one of ever-increasing exactitude, culminated in absurdity, just as he had noted in literary texts. As he put it, “I was very involved in writers like Samuel Beckett who were also interested in the idea of absurdity as a way out of intellectuality. Even a simple idea taken to a logical end can become chaos.”(1) About the “Location Drawings” LeWitt added that, “The more information that you give, the crazier it gets, until to construct a very simple form or figure such as a circle you could have three pages of text. In a way it was an extension of the idea that prolixity created simplicity and unity.”(2)
In “Drawing for Four Pages,” created for an as yet unidentified publication, we find a structure of various types of lines interacting with one another—lines that radiate from the end or the center of other lines, lines that lead from specific points to other points, and even the positioning of a straight, curved, and broken line respectively. LeWitt set the text along the constructed lines so that it underpins its trajectory on the plane as an equal visual element. No matter how precisely the respective position might be described, it does not really justify or explain the run of the lines, which remains arbitrary. The fact that the premise and the result are proportionally at odds to one another can also be seen as a subtle jibe at European modernism’s functionalist aesthetic of “less is more,” and its promise of a reconciliation between the ideal and reality.
(1) Sol LeWitt interviewed by Andrew Wilson, “To Avoid a Rational Step, Intuition Is Important” (1993), in Patricia Bickers and Andrew Wilson (eds.), Talking Art. Interviews with Artists since 1976, London 2007, pp. 414–421, here p. 416.
2 Ibid., p. 417.
Further works by Sol LeWitt in the Baloise art collection:
Inv. no. 0541, Untitled, 1988, Gouache on paper, 56.8 x 75.5 cm
Inv. no. 0542, Untitled, 1988, Gouache on paper, 56.7 x 75.3 cm
Inv. no. 0672.1, Incomplete Open Cube, 9/4, 1974, Ink on paper, 25 x 25 cm
Inv. no. 0672.3, Incomplete Open Cube, 9/12, 1974, Ink on paper, 25 x 25 cm
Inv. no. 0672.4, Incomplete Open Cube, 8/7, 1974 Ink on paper, 25 x 25 cm
Inv. no. 0672.5, Incomplete Open Cube, 10/4, 1974, Ink on paper, 25 x 25 cm