Sol LeWitt Retrospective Turns New York’s City Hall Park Into a Public Art Garden

by , 08/31/11

public art; sculpture; public space; geometric; structure; form; geometry; linear; lines

Sol LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1928 to a working class family of Russian immigrants. Upon returning from the Korean War, he settled in New York City where his work contributed to the movement towards Conceptualism and Minimalism taking place after the war. His intrigue with Russian Constructivism is apparent in the forms on display at City Hall. He emphasized the importance of systems, concepts and ideas, stating one of his goals was “to recreate art, to start from square one.”

LeWitt posed questions about nature and often looked to geometry for an empirical answer while allowing himself the liberty to bend the rules. He challenged viewers to keep an open mind and engage with his works. For instance, in his painted aluminum series “Incomplete Open Cubes,” LeWitt strove to discover how many versions of an incomplete cube exist. His answer: over 122 unique structural variations, nine of which can be found at City Hall Park.

public art; sculpture; public space; geometric; structure; form; geometry; linear; lines

His early sculptural work involved little color but after a move to Spoleto, Italy in the 1980s, his work evolved. One of his most recent works on display, “Splotch 15” completed in 2005, differs drastically in appearance from his other structures in the park. Its eye-catching colors and organic form immediately draw attention. However, the process behind its creation is highly similar to his more geometric forms. LeWitt started with a 2-D drawing of the shape of the base and from there, devised two separate visual plans to define color and height. These were later interpreted by 3-D computer modelling software to create the final piece.

Among the various techniques and materials LeWitt experimented with, the exhibit includes works made from aluminum, concrete blocks, and fiberglass. A small pyramid-shaped tower hides among the trees at the entrance on the west side of the park and draws park-goers’ attention from the otherwise straight path leading to the central fountain.

Sol LeWitt’s various structures nestled in City Hall Park fit in remarkably well. They frame the green space and guide the eye from one to the next to the central fountain or to the buildings above. Shadows from the surrounding trees play with the structures, giving them a different look depending on the time of day. Most of all, they invite the public to be part of the creative process, to re-envision the world around them, and contemplate the ideas behind the seemingly simple, clean structures.

+ Public Art Fund

All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat