Saturday, December 15, 2012

Minimalism, Measurement, and Primary Structures: Sol LeWitt, Stanley Tigerman, and Elaine Lustig Cohen

Sol LeWitt (American, 1928–2007)
Modular Cube/Base, 1967 (two views), photographs by versluis
Painted wood
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of MCA Collectors Group, Men’s Council, and Women’s Board; Young/Hoffman Gallery; and National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant, 1978.60.1-2

Sol LeWitt was one of the important artists who participated in the 1966 Primary Structures exhibition that featured artwork associated with Minimalism. LeWitt’s piece, illustrated above, is representative of his work from 1967. This particular sculpture was displayed earlier this year in a post World War II anthology exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition featured artifacts from the MCA collection; the curatorial documentation mentions that:

In LeWitt’s sculptures such as this, cubes of fixed dimension (made even more clear by the gridded base) combine to create a much larger form. The relation between part and whole can be seen as a metaphor for all systems, whether natural or man-made, visible or subatomic, lending such exercises a truly humanistic overtone.

Elaine Lustig Cohen (b. 1927), catalog for The Jewish Museum (front and back covers)
Primary Structures: Younger American & British Sculptors, 1966
image is from Display.

Regarding the Primary Structures exhibition the MCA Chicago documentation states:
Building Blocks 
One of the earliest exhibitions surveying the art movement that came to be known as Minimalism was titled Primary Structures. Presented at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1966, the exhibition and its theme still offer a useful way to think about some of the central concerns of artists working at that time. As the title suggests, the artists stripped their sculpture of unnecessary embellishment, focusing on the core components that shape two- and three-dimensional form. This approach directs us to focus on how an object is assembled, how its parts relate to one another, and the powerful effect color can have on perception and meaning, foregrounding the importance of the subtleties of surface, hue, texture, proportion, and relationships among these components.

Stanley Tigerman (b. 1930), Formica Showroom, Grid Axonometric, 1986.

A wonderful correlation and contrast exists between LeWitt’s Modular Cube/Base and Tigerman’s drawing for the Formica Showroom project shown above. In the Cesi n‘est pas une rêverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman exhibition catalog Emmanuel Petit writes:
Tigerman considers measurement to be an essential principle of legibility in architecture, and he sees the grid as the most potent architectural tool to structure space and time in a project. Unlike Mies, with his unequivocal grids, Tigerman avails himself of multiple grid systems that dislocate the sense of stability, orientation, and hierarchy, to suggest the existence of another non-linear order in architecture. (1)
  1. Petit, Emmanuel. "Nine Clouds of Architecture." Cesi n‘est pas une rêverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman. Ed. Nina Rappaport. New Haven: Yale School of Architecture, 2011. n. pag. Print.

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