Over the course of his prolific, influential career, Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) produced more than 1.200 wall drawings. Early in his career, Sol LeWitt began to have others help execute his wall drawings. Wall Drawing 16 was first drawn by a draftsmen, which helped LeWitt to realize his work according to his instructions and diagrams, addressing practical concerns such as the time-consuming nature of the drawings. More significantly, however, this choice articulated LeWitt’s belief that the conception of the idea, rather than its execution, constitutes the art work. He was also rejecting the traditional importance assigned to the artist’s own hand. The artist executed the earliest wall drawings within a square, usually four by four feet wide, but by 1969 he was using the entire wall, starting with Wall Drawing 16.
The drawings range from layers of straight lines meticulously drawn in black graphite pencil lead, to rows of delicately rendered wavy lines in colored pencil; from bold black-and-white geometric forms, to bright planes in acrylic paint arranged like the panels of a folding screen; from sensuous drawings created by dozens of layers of transparent washes, to a tangle of vibratory orange lines on a green wall, and much more. Forms may appear to be flat, to recede in space, or to project into the viewer’s space, while others meld to the structure of the wall itself.
LeWitt, who stressed the idea behind his work over its execution, is widely regarded as one of the leading exponents of Minimalism and Conceptual art, and is known primarily for his deceptively simple geometric structures and architecturally scaled wall drawings. His experiments with the latter commenced in 1968 and were considered radical, in part because this new form of drawing was purposely temporal and due to the collaborative element.