LeWitt in Progress

Rosalind Krauss
1978 October  
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to October. The process of "algebrization," the over-automatization of an
more » ... tization of an object, permits the greatest economy of perceptive effort. Either objects are assigned only one proper feature-a number, for example-or else they function as though by formula and do not even appear in cognition. Victor Shklovsky "Art as Technique" Consider the following three documents: The first is an article entitled "Sol LeWitt-The Look of Thought," by the critic Donald Kuspit. The second is a book-length essay called Progress in Art by the artist and writer Suzi Gablik. The third is the critic Lucy Lippard's contribution to the catalogue for the LeWitt retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Taken together these essays put forward a set of claims, addressed initially to the work of a specific artist, but extended to the larger context of abstract art in general, or at least to the abstract art of LeWitt's generation. What these claims amount to is a declaration of the mission and achievement of this abstraction. It is, they collectively assert, to serve as triumphant illustration of the powers of human reason. And, we might ask, what else could Conceptual Art be? Kuspit signals this grand theme with the title of his essay. "The Look of Thought" is what stares back at us from the modular structures, the openwork lattices, the serial progressions of LeWitt's sculputure. Thought, in Kuspit's terms, is deductive, inferential, axiomatic. It is a process of finding within the manifold of experience a central, organizing principle; it is the activity of a transcendental ego. "In LeWitt," Kuspit writes, "there is no optical induction; there is only deduction by rules, which have an axiomatic validity however much the work created by their execution has a tentative, inconsequential look.' And, he continues, "rationalistic, deterministic abstract art links up with a larger Western tradition, apparent in both classical antiquity and the Renaissance, viz., the Sol LeWitt. Floor Piece #4. 1976. Painted wood, 43 1/4 by 43 1/2 by 43 1/4 inches.
doi:10.2307/778617 fatcat:lstqm5rspneqfaxtwnv6ct7pgi