The following notes were made on reading Sol LeWitt’s 1968 publication Sentences on Conceptual Art, which I feel could provide a model for the writing of my own research outcome / “manifesto” on the theme of “enabling constraints”.
- Originally published as “felt-tip pen on fifteen sheets of paper (one with pencil and ballpoint pen)” and well as “felt-tip pen on three postcards” and “felt-tip pen on letterpress card”, Sol LeWitt’s Sentences are a hand-written document that outline the artist’s thoughts on the making of art during the era of “conceptual art”. (MoMA.org 2022).
- The text opens with the assertions that “conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists” and that “they leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach”. In this way LeWitt begins with a statement that is almost counterintuitive – likening the seemingly dry intellectualism of conceptual art to that which is “illogical” and even “mystical”. (LeWitt 1968).
- LeWitt’s text comprises a total of 35 “sentences”, each offering an insight into the artist’s thinking at the time. Examples include “irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically”, “for each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not”, and “perception of ideas leads to new ideas”. The closing statement reads “these sentences comment on art, but are not art”. (LeWitt 1968).
- I like both the content and execution of LeWitt’s text. The sentences – taken individually – are all interesting in their own right, and as a whole they relate to each other in interesting and thought-provoking ways. I also like the artist’s formal approach to articulating these thoughts; the original hand-written sheets appear quite beautiful – as “art objects” – while effectively conveying their content, while later iterations of the sentences – as a typed and legible text – represent almost the antithesis of the art object, instead offering only dry, intellectual language.
- I feel like I could employ each of these formal approaches in my own research outcome – either as contrasting elements of the same product, or as different iterations of the same content. For example, one outcome could combine typed “sentences” with hand-written commentary, while an alternative approach could involve producing both hand-written and typed-up versions of the same text. Each of these versions could be illustrated differently – one with my own work, one with the work of others – and could even deviate wildly in terms of content – one being more straightforward and academic, the other being colloquial, speculative, even poetic.
LeWitt, S. (1968). Sentences on Conceptual Art. Available online at: http://radicalart.info/concept/LeWitt/sentences.html. [Accessed 05/08/22].
MoMA.org. (2022). MoMA: Sol LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1968). Available online at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/146945 [Accessed 05/08/22].