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Team Building as a Fine Art

"I would like to produce something I would not be ashamed to show Giotto."
Sol LeWitt

The American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt used written instructions for his assistants to create his art works. The task is for each team to create an art work from a set of written instructions by Lewitt. The instructions given will be the same for each team. This exercise will look at how individual teams and team members interpret these instructions. During the second part of this exercise the teams will be asked to create their own instructions for a drawing which will then be given to another team to complete.

This exercise will look at communication both within the individual team members and in the second part cross team communication.

Supporting his idea that the thought is more important than the act, LeWitt rejects the notion of art as a unique and precious object. He often uses assistants to execute the works based upon his detailed instructions. Adherence to LeWitt's system does not validate a scientific principle or insure technical perfection. For LeWitt, an idea may be mathematically or scientifically invalid, but as long as the executor follows the system established by the artist, a true expression of the idea is produced. The intent is to merely to make good art. Instructions for executing a work give way to any number of physical manifestations of an idea; some will be beautiful, some will not, but the idea maintains its integrity. His art exists, above all, in the space between the artist's conception and the viewer's reception; it is dependent upon the viewer's sensory responses for its completion. Some instructions are simple and straightforward and some are long and complex.

For example, LeWitt's instructions for the execution of Wall Drawing #340, 1980, mandates:

Six-part drawing. The wall is divided horizontally and vertically into six equal parts. 1st part: On red, blue horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a circle within which are yellow vertical parallel lines; 2nd part: On yellow, red horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a square within which are blue vertical parallel lines; 3rd part: On blue, yellow horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a triangle within which are red vertical parallel lines; 4th part: On red, yellow horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a rectangle within which are blue vertical parallel lines; 5th part: On yellow, blue horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a trapezoid within which are red vertical parallel lines; 6th part: On blue, red horizontal parallel lines, and in the center, a parallelogram within which are yellow vertical parallel lines. The horizontal lines do not enter the figures.

LeWitt's work strikes a delicate balance between perceptual and conceptual qualities; between dedication to the simplicity and order of geometry and his pursuit of visual beauty and intuitive creation; and between his authorship and anonymity regarding his work. Wall drawings, perhaps more than any other medium LeWitt uses, illustrate this inherent tension between craftsmanship and anonymity. The historical precedent of Renaissance fresco painting, which LeWitt deeply admires, is counterbalanced by the execution of his wall drawings. By using industrial materials that erase any trace of craft and employing assistants to execute his ideas, LeWitt was one of the first artists to renounce the importance of the artist's hand. However, LeWitt's desire to adhere to a system does not negate his wish to create truly beautiful wall drawings. As the artist said in the early 1980s, "I would like to produce something I would not be ashamed to show Giotto."

Sol LeWitt Retrospective
Exhibition Features Four Decades of Work by the Pioneer Conceptual Artist
(San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)

 

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