New York

Sol LeWitt

John Weber Gallery

It may seem surprising to find a connection between Eggleston’s photographs and the work of SOL LeWITT. But there is one, and it is in the attempt which both artists make to manipulate an exquisite sensibility. Eggleston uses this kind of sensibility as a disguise; LeWitt disguises it.

Impressed by its look of mathematical certainty, critics have tended to write about LeWitt’s work as though he were somehow making models of intelligence. The sheer beauty of many of his pieces often goes unremarked, and the sensuous appeal of many of the prints and wall drawings is denied, or at least ignored. As a result we rarely read of the melancholic romanticism inherent in these meditations on permutation and change within fixed, predetermined limits. And yet it is that which gives the work its real power, not some bogus similarity it may have to the diagrams of cognitive psychologists.

As though finally to make this point clear LeWitt has recently been working with photographic imagery. He has photographed walls, and the effects of weather upon them, and he has photographed the interior of his studio; these subjects could still be related to the established reading of his work, but they nevertheless point to a much more associative, almost poetic procedure. Now, photographing garden statuary that has been pitted and corroded by time, isolating single figures against a sky which seems to bleed into them as the grain of these blow-ups gives everything a misty, soft-focus look, LeWitt is frankly admitting the rather humdrum romance, cultivated and wistful, that is the inspiration behind his work.

Otherwise, there has been no significant change. LeWitt’s pursuit of variation within a given theme remains as obsessive as before, as does his ability to reduce that theme to a point where it is little more than a cipher. It is enough to know that we are looking at garden statuary, in a general sense: place is unimportant, and individual details matter only insofar as they indicate difference within the system as a whole. What does matter is the sophisticated delight in shades of gray, and in shades of meaning. And so Eggleston and LeWitt are not so distant from each other. Each offers imagery laden with often-contradictory associations, but neither provides any clue as to his own preference—which leaves the viewer alone simply to look.

Thomas Lawson