Sol LeWitt; a study in Instructional Art

MEDA102 Assignment 1

Sol LeWitt – Instructional Art – Sophie Abrahams


For this assignment I am going to analyse Sol Lewitt’s “Wall Drawing #1136” (2004) in regards to the instructions and procedure actions it uses, and examine the history of instructional art and how it relates to the topics we have been discussing in our tutorials. Instructional art is the genre of art that is not created by the artist; rather, the artist conjures up a list of instructions to be decoded and executed. The result is a completely unique piece of work, that exhibits the raw interpretations of its’ creator. This analysis will aim to research and explain exactly what instructional art is, provide examples, and link it all back to our core studies in MED102.

Sol LeWitt made his name being a core leader of the conceptual movement, because of his belief of artists as generators of ideas. LeWitt believed that the idea itself can be art, in its purest form (The Art Story 2016). There are 2 main parts to this piece by Sol LeWitt; the instructions, and the execution. The instructions are printed on normal pieces of paper and are signed by Sol LeWitt. They are composed of both a written component and a diagram, posing a code for the decoder to figure out in order to execute the piece. This certificate is to be always with the piece, and is in a format which is consistent with all of Sol LeWitt’s work prior to his death in 2007. This emphasises the importance of the finished artwork to the fundamental meaning of the conceptual idea.

A Wall Divided Vertically into Fifteen Equal Parts, Each with a Different Line Direction and Colour, and All Combinations 1970 by Sol LeWitt 1928-2007

Sol LeWitt, 2004, Wall Drawing #1136, painting, Fraenkel Gallery, California

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Sol LeWitt, 2004, Wall Drawing #1136, image, viewed August 10 2016

The execution of the piece is composed of a mixture of curved and straight lines of colour that is painted onto the surface of a wall using every primary and secondary colour plus grey. This curve is made up of 9 of these lines of colour, interloping each other and snaking along the wall. The same colours appear again as vertical bands that make up the background. There is no area in the piece left empty of colour, and every band is the same width. This piece was first installed in the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, California in September 2004, and was first drawn by Marta Ayala, Sachiko Cho, Matt Dejong, Amanda Eicher, Melissa Levin, Amy Rathbone, Rick Salas and Paul Wackers. The piece is supposed to be a conceptual one, one which can be drawn over and over and still retain the same meaning. The wall drawing is supposed to be inherently collaborative and participatory, which is depicted by the collective way in which it is executed.

The piece directly relates to what we are studying in our tutorials and lectures. I’m going to refer in particular to instructions and procedure actions. In week 3 we explored the use of instructions in art, as we explored the concept of instructions themselves. We also tried our hand at making some of Sol LeWitt’s art ourselves, which helped us to further understand how instructional art works. We created our own flow charts, which gave me a sort of inside look at creating instructional art. The processes that Sol LeWitt became evident when we began the activities, as the problems with conversion and translation became obvious. These issues can become frustrating when someone is trying to explain the piece, but perhaps that is the point of these artworks. The point is that art is interpretable by anyone, despite the intent. Sol LeWitt just used these things to his advantage and enhanced his artworks by using them.

Many other artists have created pieces like these, such as Yoko Ono. In 1962, Yoko Ono did a series of instructional paintings at AG Gallery in New York. The pieces were made up of just blank canvases and instructions. Ono stated in her 1995 book Instruction Paintings, “I was totally excited by the idea and its visual possibilities. To make the point that the instructions were not themselves graphic images, I wanted the instructions to be typed” (Ono 1995). Ono then created a further set of instructional pieces in 1999; Imagine, Yes, Touch, Fly, Breathe, Reach, Forget, Feel, Dream, Open, Remember. These pieces were linen canvases with single words accompanied, to further enhance the experience of instructional paintings. These pieces directly correlate with LeWitt’s work and ideas.

Through the analysis of this specific artist, it is easy to see its influence on modern art. Our studies into instruction and procedure actions have further explored these concepts and has provided me with more ideas on how to execute similar concepts in works of my own. As artists we need to think about the deeper meaning of creative concepts, and how they influence the audiences that come into contact with them.


Reference List:


  1. 2016, Artist Sol LeWitt, The Art Story, viewed 10 August 2016,
  2. Gurney, S 2016, Instruction Pieces, Yoko Ono, viewed 10 August 2016,
  3. Altshuler, B 2015, Art by Instruction and the Pre-History of do it, viewed 10 August 2016,
  4. Straine, S 2010, Wall Drawing #1136, Tate, viewed 10 August 2016,
  5. Sol LeWitt, 2004, Wall Drawing #1136, painting, Fraenkel Gallery, California
  6. Sol LeWitt, 2004, Wall Drawing #1136, image, viewed August 10 2016