Cardi Gallery Revisits Conceptual Master Sol LeWitt

There may be no artist more synonymous with the term conceptual art than Sol LeWitt. This spring, Milan’s Cardi Gallery presents a retrospective look at the artist, revealing the multifaceted dimensions behind his practice—one that encompasses angular sculptures, sprawling frescoes, and influential essays that heralded Minimalism and have inspired generations of artists since.

  • Installation view of “Sol Lewitt” at Cardi Gallery, Milan. Courtesy of Cardi Gallery, Milan.

    Installation view of “Sol Lewitt” at Cardi Gallery, Milan. Courtesy of Cardi Gallery, Milan.

While the “conceptual art” is now broadly applied to any art that involves “concepts,” it originally referred to a group of artists, working in the 1960s, who emphasized the ideas that drive art over aesthetics. Sol LeWitt advanced this approach by creating art objects from lists of instructions—in his words: “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” In Lines in Four Directions (1971), for instance, the delicate ink drawing fulfills precisely what its title states: four fields filled with lines pointing in different directions. 

LeWitt’s works often center around repeating systems to their logical ends—with aesthetically striking results. Many of his sculptures, for instance, reorganize the simple structure of a cube into endless variations. Though Irregular Tower (2005) appears to follow simple rules of repeating cubes to form a pyramid, the end result is an imposing mass of white boxes.

While Cardi Gallery displays works from many of LeWitt’s most recognized series, the show also shines for its display of lesser-known gouache paintings that LeWitt produced late in his career. As the artist grew older, he began to incorporate more and more color into his practice—most notably in his wall drawings, executed in a bright primary palette. The gouaches on view showcase LeWitt’s eye for more subtle color combinations. Entrancing lines oranges, blues, and greens undulate and overlap in single works. Their titles allude to LeWitt’s early adoration of instruction-based art while simultaneously breaking away from regimentation with a hint of humor. Horizontal Bands (More or Less) (2003) consists of lines that curve and ripple, “more or less” forming horizontal lines.

  • Installation view of “Sol Lewitt” at Cardi Gallery, Milan. Courtesy of Cardi Gallery, Milan.

    Installation view of “Sol Lewitt” at Cardi Gallery, Milan. Courtesy of Cardi Gallery, Milan.

While LeWitt’s practice belongs to an artistic milieu that’s nearly half a century old, his art still feels fresh—especially as younger artists return to abstraction in search of their own response to the genre. Though LeWitt may have defined the term “conceptual art,” Cardi Gallery’s exhibition asserts that no single term can encapsulate this complex, pioneering artist.


—Andrew Wagner


Sol LeWitt” is on view at Cardi Gallery, Milan, Jan. 27–Apr. 15, 2016.

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