Friday, March 20, 2009

Subjugating self


Reinstalling Sol LeWitt's “Wall Drawing #541”
at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

As an artist, I was most intrigued by the aspect of participating in a LeWitt installation that involved the setting aside of all individual aesthetics and practices in favor of total group cooperation, the goal of which is LeWitt’s specific breed of uniformity and exactitude. Though the mark-making movements are specific and simple, an integral part of the process was our concerted effort to vary our approach, such that no hand held too much influence over any specific region within the drawing. The idea is not that we use our own experiences and skills to approach the specific challenges of the drawing, but that we carefully yield to the history of the practice. It is a unique thing for an artist to forgo individuality in such an explicit way. The results are beautiful in their precision and specificity.

I also appreciate that LeWitt would choose to narrow his approach to the use of a simple set of rules and specific marks and colors, and that with this relatively simple language there is virtually endless room for variation. This is a central theme in my own studio work, that a true and thorough exploration of a singular problem can easily yield a life’s worth of work. His approach acknowledges the importance of the very foundations of visual expression. The simplest notions of mark-making and surface provide ample room for variation and expansion. Lastly, I admire his willingness to allow others to bring the works to fruition, as this demonstrates an implicit trust in the value of his systems as a means for expression that stands alone, independent of the artist.

Anna Bushman was one of six workers who assisted Sarah Hienemann in the reinstallation of VMFA’s “Wall Drawing #541,” 1987, by Sol LeWitt.

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