The other day we had the chance to slowly move through the SFMOMA, one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area.
I spent a while sitting in proximity to a few different pieces by Sol LeWitt, an American conceptualist.
LeWitt’s work appears deceptively simple, using little or no color and simple geometric shapes and patterns.
“By repeating and varying a single principle, he created sculptural structures that were aesthetically satisfying even as their internal logic was pushed to the edge of irrationality.” (SFMOMA)
SFMOMA has a room filled floor to ceiling with several of LeWitt’s wall drawings, intersecting lines emanating out from several loci in bold primary colors.
These drawings are simple and they are beautiful.
But what struck me most was LeWitt’s conviction that the true art lay not in the product but in the idea or concept. The piece of LeWitt’s art I was looking at (Wall Drawing 273) was an original LeWitt, and yet at some point the wall would be painted over and a draftsman (following LeWitt’s instructions) could recreate the art on a different wall without losing the originality of the art.
Although it would resemble Wall Drawing 273 as I saw it (LeWitt’s instructions dictate the number of lines, the number of locus points, the color of the lines, etc.), the shape and size of the wall, the lighting of the space, etc. would all change the dimensionality and feel of the next iteration of Wall Drawing 273.
Again from SFMOMA’s bio on LeWitt, “each of these impermanent artworks consists of a set of the artist’s instructions, something like a musical score, with the actual execution carried out by someone else.”
And now for some theological reflection…
I couldn’t help but wonder if this isn’t the pattern of creation and recreation that we find in the Christian Scriptures:
impermanent artwork: Genesis 1’s depiction of Eden isn’t static or sculpted; the garden is meant to flourish, multiply, grow, and change.
set of the artist’s instructions: not a blueprint or schematic, but a coherent yet loose invitation into the ongoing (re)creation of the world
something like a musical score: LeWitt’s concept for Wall Drawing 273 isn’t beautiful in and of itself, although it is, in some sense, the art. But when the instructions are drafted onto a wall, the art takes a shape and form that can inspire awe, breathlessness, wonder, reflection, inspiration, etc.
actual execution carried out by someone else: This is perhaps the most profound, the openness and willingness of the artist to invite other’s into the recreation of their art (not as the artist per se, but also not not as the artist). Every iteration of Wall Drawing 273 will be different, but they can all be true.
The entirety of the Christian Scriptures invites humanity into the project of (re)creating the world with a coherent invitation into the shape and form and concept yet with an unbelievable freedom to expand and innovate and adapt within the conceptual artistry.