The Minimalist Art of Sol Lewitt- Annelysse Eggold

The Minimalist Art of Sol Lewitt

The Ark of Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek

A beautiful legacy for a wonderful man… that is the story of the Ark of Beth Shalom.

Sol LeWitt, born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1928 and deceased in 2007, worked as an entry-level night receptionist and clerk in 1960 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is now regarded as the founder of both Minimal and Conceptual art.

“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art,” Lewitt prophetically wrote as a defining intention of conceptual art in his Paragraphs on Conceptual Art in 1967 in Artforum, soon to become a manifesto for a genre of subsequent art.  Lewitt opposed the “notion that the artist is a kind of ape that has to be explained by the civilized critic,” and proceeded to explain that conceptual art is made for the mind whereas perceptual art is made for the eye.  He informs us that “ideas are discovered by intuition” (a Platonic reverberation?) and assists our understanding by explaining that conceptual art is not theoretical, it is intuitive…it is involved with mental processes…it is purposeless…it is free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as craftsman…it is the objective of the artist to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator…the work does not have to be rejected if it does not look well…it eliminates the subjective as much as possible…the form itself is of limited importance.”

Lewitt further informs us that “New materials are one of the great afflictions of contemporary art…some artists confuse new materials with new ideas.  This kind of art should be stated with the greatest economy of means…any idea that is better stated in two dimensions should not be in three dimensions.”

Now to the ark.  Lewitt co-designed a small synagogue in Connecticut, Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, together with architect Stephen Lloyd in 2001 and created a conceptual work to reveal the ark which subsequently became a design for a much sought after jewish skullcap, the Lewitt Yarmulke, which raised considerable funds for sustaining the synagogue.  Unfortunately Lewitt never saw the yarmulke before he died at age 78.  The yarmulke, also called a kippah, was sought after by the art world, with Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg, gallerist James Cohan, and Pace Prints President Dick Solomon acquiring the yarmulke with bar mitzvah planners ordering thousands while thousands more were shipped around the world as a wearable work of contemporary, conceptual art and a mitzvah.  Shalom Sol Lewitt!

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