Sol LeWitt Ten Thousand Lines, 5″ long, Within a 7″ square 1971 Pencil on paper (28.5 x 28.5cm)
I saw this at an exhibition of Sol LeWitt’s drawings at Leeds city art gallery in 1991 and have been captivated by it ever since. I can’t get over how an artist can get so much information and reference within something so visually simple. In part it is a commentary on all drawing, the endless process of defining space by grubby marks on processed wood pulp. But there’s an image here, of a man sitting at a desk repeating the same action over and over, not as obsession but as an act of discipline. There’s reference to Malevich’s Black Square on a White Ground but this time alluding to its own making. Or perhaps LeWitt’s drawing represents only itself, where Black Square was a image of spiritual truth. There is also something of action art, in our being presented with the result of a such an obviously long, repetitive and arduous process, but pared down, without the histrionics of the abstract expressionists.
I sometimes think of Sol LeWitt’s process as over clever and emotionally cold but I’m also surprised at how often I’m encouraged while drawing by the obstinacy of this piece and I’m reminded of the physicality and materiality of all actions.