New documentary on Sol LeWitt to have U.S. theatrical premiere at Film Forum

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New documentary on Sol LeWitt to have U.S. theatrical premiere at Film Forum
A scene from Chris Teerink’s documentary Sol Lewitt. Photo: Courtesy of Icarus Films.

NEW YORK, NY.- “Conceptual artists leap to conclusions logic cannot reach,” Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) said in a rare audio-interview from 1974. Notoriously camera-shy, Lewitt refused awards and rarely granted interviews, yet in Chris Teerink’s sensitive cinematic portrait, the pioneering conceptual American artist comes alive.

LeWitt’s artwork can be seen as obsession pushed to the limit of paradox and absurdity: simple ideas, communicated simply—often with a set of instructions sent by fax—lead to overwhelming visual and intellectual complexity. For example, to create Wall drawing #801: Spiral, a white line spirals down the black wall of a cupola 3.2 miles long. The film documents the piece’s 2011 installation in Maastricht, the Netherlands, which takes eight assistants 30 days to complete. When the painstaking work is done and the scaffolding taken away, the result is the transformative.

Using extensive interviews and documentation of artwork installed around the world, in the acclaimed documentary Sol LeWitt, director Chris Teerink explores the artist’s work and philosophy.

‘A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.’

Sol LeWitt was a U.S. artist and a founder of both Conceptual and Minimalism art. LeWitt came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings and "structures" (a term he preferred instead of "sculptures") but was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting. He has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world since 1965.

According to the principle of his work, LeWitt's wall drawings are usually executed by people other than the artist himself. He would therefore eventually use teams of assistants to create such works. Writing about making wall drawings, LeWitt himself observed in 1971 that "each person draws a line differently and each person understands words differently".

Between 1968 and his death in 2007, LeWitt created more than 1,270 wall drawings. The wall drawings, executed on-site, generally exist for the duration of an exhibition; they are then destroyed, giving the work in its physical form an ephemeral quality. They can be installed, removed, and then reinstalled in another location, as many times as required for exhibition purposes.

Two important essays by LeWitt defined the new movement: “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) and “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969). The earlier text proclaimed: “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

Chris Teerink (Amersfoort, 1966) is a documentary filmmaker and editor. He studied at the AKI (Academy for Art & Industry) in Enschede. After three years trying several disciplines he decided to focus on film and went to the Filmacademy in Amsterdam (NFTVA). The film he made for his final exam, CECI N’EST PAS UNE VOITURE..., was about the Citroën 2CV as a cultural phenomenon. Since then he works as an autonomous filmmaker. As an editor he edited many fiction films like THE POLISH BRIDE, and many documentaries of different directors. Among other films of Chris Teerink are: MOJAVE (about the inhabitants of the Mojave desert in the southwest of the United States) and IN THE SHADOW OF THE LIGHT (about Jonas Mekas, Godfather of the American avant-garde and founder of Anthology Film Archives in New York).

It is not an exaggeration to say that the work of Sol LeWitt changed my life. As an eighteen year old I saw his retrospective at the – then famous – Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Seeing his wall drawings there at that time (1984) for ever changed my way of thinking about art. That same year I went to art school, and three years later to film school. The fact that a concept can lead to, or produce a work of art is still a powerful tool in my practice as a filmmaker. So when I learned about the reinstallment of his wall drawing #801, 'Spiral' in Maastricht, in the south of the Netherlands, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to start thinking about a film on Sol LeWitt, to pay homage to the man who's work influenced me se deeply. But more than to pay homage I wanted to discover. How could such simples ideas, lead to such powerful and overwhelming works? The answer to that question turned out to be a surprise, also to me, so in that respect making film has been a journey, as in a way every film should be. –Chris Teerink

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