Art by recipe

April 17, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Sol LeWittI’ve been intrigued by Sol LeWitt’s work for some time, so it was sad to learn of his recent death. Much like Nonaka studied the tacit knowledge embedded in the breadmaking process (leaving aside the high probability that Nonaka totally misunderstood Polanyi’s notion of tacit knowledge), LeWitt’s art came with its own recipe. If you followed his directions, you whipped up your very own piece of art.

Since the early 1960s, LeWitt had been working with basic geometric shapes and ideas to produce stunningly colourful conceptual art ie the idea is the artwork. An example of a LeWitt recipe is: Wall Drawing No. 681 C/ A wall divided vertically into four equal squares separated and bordered by black bands. Within each square, bands in one of four directions, ink washes superimposed. Another one was: “Twenty-one isometric cubes of varying sizes each with color ink washes superimposed”.

Sometimes the instructions were quite specific, at other times they were vague – it all depended on the idea or the interpretation. “Black bands” might mean narrow or broad; “not straight” might mean wavy or irregular. But the input, the frustration, the joy and the passion contributed by those who assembled LeWitt’s pieces became a part of the art and the creative, organic process.

Clearly, he had a good sense of humour with one of his pieces entitled ““Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value” (1968). What I’ve always liked about his work is the notion of art as a visual sign. He began with an idea or a concept, which was translated into expression and meaning.

The National Art Gallery of Australia has 2 LeWitt pieces. You can learn more about LeWitt’s work here and see some stunning examples of his work here. The image accompanying this post is a LeWitt from the Opus Art Gallery in the UK.


Entry filed under: Art, Knowledge Management.

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