In the Round with Sol LeWitt

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LeWitt_UT
Circle with Towers (author photo)

This is a work by Sol LeWitt called Circle with Towers. It has been in place in front of the Gates computer science building on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin since 2012 as part of the university’s Landmarks public art program. (Another incarnation had been erected in New York City’s Madison Square Park in 2005; it’s no longer there now.)

When this piece came to the university campus, I did not love it. Neither did I hate it. You might say that I was confused. I looked at it and struggled with whether I would call it art or not. It almost looks like it could be any other concrete wall on campus — a place for students to sit down and rest between classes (and stare at their phones, naturally).

But now, it’s growing on me. The more I learn about LeWitt and his concepts, the more intrigued I become. I don’t always find his works to be beautiful, but the idea behind them is fascinating.

Idea being the operative word. LeWitt, who passed away in 2007, created the ideas for his pieces. He wrote up meticulous instructions, and other people actually built them (and continue to build them, under the supervision of his foundation). So LeWitt’s work is conceptual art. The work of art is not the finished product; the work of art is the concept.

Apparently LeWitt was adamant that those who built his concepts always be given credit, along with himself. So his works, which come in lots of different forms including wall drawings, always carry his name and the names of the people who carried them out.

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