In the 1960s, the position that art could be generated by ideas rather than emotions was a radical one. For Sol LeWitt, this meant establishing systems of logic in the form of written instructions that governed the outcome of an artwork in advance of its execution. With his wall drawings, LeWitt ensured that his autographic touch was wholly absent by leaving the implementation to others. Despite their basis in impersonal sets of directions, the surfaces of the wall drawings nevertheless have the capacity to become visually sumptuous. While the early examples were executed in graphite, colored pencil, chalk, or crayon, LeWitt’s directives in later decades mandated the use of inks and colored ink washes (from the early 1980s) and acrylic paint (beginning in 1997), with increasingly bold, colorful results. Relatively austere combinations of straight and curved lines in the first works also gave way to increasingly irregular, playful shapes and patterns.
A site-specific work that LeWitt conceived for gallery 208 in 1997, and one of the earliest of the artist’s wall drawings to incorporate acrylic paint, Wall Drawing #831 (Geometric Forms) is rendered in highly saturated, vibrant tonalities of blue, gray, green, orange, purple, and red. The irregular and cropped geometric forms bend with the curved and sloping wall of the Frank Gehry–designed gallery, so that the painting both merges with and transforms its architectural setting.