This iteration of VIewpoints
features Sol LeWitt's (1989). These four acquaint prints by LeWitt (U.S., 1928-2007) exemplify how the artist developed his artistic vocabulary by exploring different combinations of basic geometric units. Using fundamental elements such as line, shape, and color as his building blocks, LeWitt would follow a predetermined set of actions to investigate the compositional possibilities of modular structures and series.
LeWitt stipulated that the four individual prints may only be installed in a strict horizontal or vertical line, or in a gridded arrangement. To properly explore the variations of this work, the installation changed several times.
Below is the featured commentary by University of Washington faculty that accompanies the installation.
—Rachel Ivy Clarke, Pre-doctoral Lecturer, Information School
At first glance, Sol LeWitt's art appears to be something any three-year-old could do. A simple set of squares in primary colors seems the furthest thing from what the average person thinks Art-with-a-capital-A is. However, the magic of LeWitt's art is more than the final work mounted on the wall. His meticulous planning and decision making provide a detailed set of rules and guidelines for creation and display of his art. LeWitt's pre-established directions also allow for flexibility of expression. Different interpretations of his rules result in different arrangements, allowing museums to interpret and order the work to their particular preference while still adhering to LeWitt's directions.
Like LeWitt's art, libraries, too, look simple on the exterior. Organizing books and other information resources may appear easy. But librarians spent years honing rules to handle complicated situations like corporate authorship and fluctuating titles. Theories and guidelines of information organization allow similar flexibility, enabling individual libraries to serve the needs of local patrons. LeWitt's
are specifically reminiscent of faceted classification, a library development most commonly seen in e-commerce, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and filter merchandise by categories like color, size, and price. We experience such interactions every day, yet, like LeWitt's art, we only see the surface presentation, never thinking about the work that goes into creating the rules and guidelines that make such interactions possible.
—Huck Hodge, Assistant Professor of Composition, School of Music
As a composer, I am acutely aware of the various modes of temporality that inhere in different musical materials. Though the quality of time in a painting or print is often considered to be nonlinear—as opposed to the way that a piece of music unfolds successively in time—LeWitt's work presents a definite narrative that arises through a gradual shift in the perception of the viewer. The temporal stasis implied by the seemingly monochromatic color fields gives way to a freer, more dynamic sense of time when the perception shifts to the complex, yet subtle, textures that constitute these colors. But LeWitt maintains the possibility for a nonlinear, temporal narrative in this work through his allowance of modular rearrangement of the individual panels.
This sort of modular thinking—often called "open form" in music—was an important conceit for many composers of the postwar era. So, in this light, I would end with a possible playlist to accompany this work:
Is Something Missing?
—Jay Neitz, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology
Centuries before scientists began their exploration, artists were studying the relationship between physical stimulus and our perceptions. The physical stimulus associated with color vision is the wavelength of light that varies continuously, and there are an infinite number of different distributions of light wavelengths. Leonardo da Vinci and other artists were the first to recognize that our perception of color is limited, not continuous and infinite. Da Vinci identified a hierarchy of six basic colors: white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black. All our color experience can be described as combinations of these six colors. For example, purple can be described as the simultaneous sensation of red and blue. There are six different types of neurons in our visual system, one for each of the pure colors. Gray is thought to represent the absence of any color signals sent from our eye to the brain. Painters have often used pure colors in painting because they produce very vivid contrasts. In these prints, I expect a green square in the last position since three of the four other pure hues are represented but instead the last square is gray, the absence of all color sensation.