For more than twenty years, Rice University Art Gallery
has been the only university gallery in the nation devoted to commissioning site-specific installation art. Artists early in their careers, as well as artists of international reputation, have constructed temporary works, each transforming the Gallerys signature white box space in a completely different way. In spring 2017, Rice Gallery comes full circle by bringing to life a second time one of its earliest installations, Glossy and Flat Black Squares (Wall Drawing #813) by Sol LeWitt. It is fitting that it is the gallerys final exhibition, on view through May 14, 2017.
Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), a pioneer of Conceptual art, designed Glossy and Flat Black Squares for the Rice Gallery space in 1997. Inherent in this work and in the more than 1,000 wall drawings done by LeWitt between 1968 and 2007 is that they are temporary and can be re-created, even existing in more than one place at a time. Conceptual art gives precedence to the idea of the work of art, rather than its execution. Thus, similar to traditional musical scores or architectural drawings, Glossy and Flat Black Squares resides on paper as a set of instructions until it is re-created. The LeWitt Collection in Chester, Connecticut granted permission to re-install Wall Drawing #813 and sent Michael Vedder, an artist trained in making LeWitts wall drawings, to initiate the installation and to work alongside David Krueger, the Rice Gallery preparator and his crew.
Glossy and Flat Black Squares gains its perceptual impact through LeWitts inventive use of arts basic elements including color, shape, and space. LeWitt conceived of this work in the last decade of his life as he began to use paint for the first time to create his wall drawings. LeWitt did not refer to these works as murals or paintings because he wished to stress that they still fit within the artistic concerns that motivated his earlier wall drawings done in ink, crayon, or pencil.
One thread that unifies LeWitts wall drawings across such disparate media is his lifetime interest in arts relationship to architecture. Glossy and Flat Black Squares is painted directly on Rice Gallerys pre-existing walls; nothing was changed to accommodate them. Their scale and proportion fit into and expand within the works architectural container, thus echoing, reverberating, and drawing attention to the fundamental qualities of spatial experience. The ceiling height, the width of the gallerys rectangular walls, the limestone squares that compose its flooring, as well as its vertical rectangles of glass delineated by black mullions, are integral to and inseparable from the experience of LeWitts installation.