Friday, March 30, 2012

Sol Lewitt and Alfred Jensen at Pace Gallery (Revised)

Pace Gallery presented an exhibition from January 13, 2012 through February 11, 2012 that juxtaposed select works of Alfred Jensen and Sol Lewitt. The show, titled Systems and Transformation, showcased the artists' work side by side, revealing their preoccupation with grids and structural systems.

Jensen's abstract paintings address the organization of color and symbols. The paintings on view were made between 1960 and 1975, and offer a glimpse into the artists' preoccupation with kaleidoscopic, colorful patterning and basic shapes. Jensen used limited basic geometrical shapes in his work, most pieces were a combination of triangles, squares and circles. However, Pace Gallery displays works which solely utilize the square. Looking like multicolored checkerboards, the paintings were created using mathematical systems and color theories. While the actual system used by the artist is unknown to the viewer, it becomes clear that every choice of color was intentional, for you begin to see an underlying pattern emerge. One of Jensen's most complex pieces, A la Fin de l'automne (1975), exemplifies his structured, systematic style. A square grid comprised of 289 smaller squares with selected symbols painted within, creates a pattern that appears mathematical as well as grammatical. It is as if Jensen is using his own pictorial language and each square contains one word or phrase, a snippet of the whole sentence or paragraph.

Jensen's colorful checkerboard paintings were creatively placed side by side with the austere, open structures of Lewitt. On display were several three-dimensional gridded sculptures, from the mid 1970s - 1990s, minimal in color but precise in form such as Open Geometic Structure (1991). All of the sculptures on display were made from the same recognizable form, the cube. Lewitt used different mediums including wood and aluminum to form his structures and then painted them all white, creating a cohesive body of work. These pieces, like Jensen's, are also clearly governed by mathematics and structure. However, Lewitt's work, while only comprised of cubes, takes on new shapes and forms through the stacking and redirecting of the basic form. Lewitt used the geometry and physics of the structural cube to objectively organize space, creating his own visual dialogue.

Alfred Jensen and Sol Lewitt are two artists whose main artistic concern is the representation of the grid using systematic approaches. The work presented at Pace manages to make a very straightforward, 'square' topic seem dynamic and vibrant. It is because of the curatorial choice to combine these artists that this showing of grids and cubes feels fresh even decades later.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I think your review is clear and direct. I really enjoyed the way you described the show, you clarified the meaning of the artist's works and intentions. It is also evident the curatorial choice to show these artists together, you compared Alfred Jensen and Sol Lewitt very well. Your writing style mirrors their ”systematic approaches“ and this makes the description smooth and fine. In this sense, I feel that your judgment about the show is positive, without any negative note.
    There is only a boring thin layer on all the show. A sort of monotonous note seeps from your words.