Sol LeWitt

Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off


Sol LeWitt 1928–2007
Enamel on aluminium
Object: 1600 x 3054 x 2330 mm
Purchased 1974

Not on display

Display caption

In 1982 the artist wrote, 'the most interesting characteristic of the cube is that it is relatively uninteresting. It is best used as a basic unit for any more elaborate function, the grammatical device from which the work may proceed.' This sculpture is one of a group on the same scale, beginning with a single cube and using it as a building block or module in various combinations. This is the key example of the 'half-off' sculptures, where the cubes abut along half of one side instead of being aligned. The series includes works with three half-off cubes and with five half-off cubes alternately projecting and receding in a zig-zag. There are potentially many additions to the basic form.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Sol LeWitt born 1928

T01865 Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off 1972

Not inscribed
Baked enamel on aluminium, 63 x 120 1/4 x 91 3/4 (160 x 303.5 x 233)
Purchased from the artist through the Lisson Gallery, London (Grant in-Aid) 1974
Exh: Sol LeWitt, Kunsthalle, Bern, October-November 1972 (works not numbered, sketch repr.)
Lit: Alicia Legg, Lucy R. Lippard, Bernice Rose, Robert Rosenblum, Sol LeWitt (New York 1978), p.71, drawing of this piece repr.
Repr: The Tate Gallery 1974-6 (London 1976), p.43

This sculpture is one of a group on the same scale using the cube as a building block or module in various simple combinations. The basic piece consists of a single cube. Then there are pieces with two cubes one on top of the other, three cubes in a row and five in a row; also three forming a right angle, four forming a square and five forming a cross. The Tate's is the key example of the half-off pieces in which the cubes abut along half their sides instead of being aligned. This idea is developed further in a piece with not two but three half-off cubes, and another with five half-off cubes alternately projecting and receding in a zig-zag. There are also two pieces with two cubes in a line and either one or two cubes set half-way along the side; another with two cubes surmounted in the centre by a third; one with two cubes in a line and a double cube, one on top of the other, half-way along the side; and finally (the fifteenth piece to date) one with three cubes forming a right angle and the corner cube surmounted by a fourth cube.

The artist said in April 1975 that these works should not be regarded as a series but simply as a group of related pieces. He has not attempted to explore all the possible permutations but picked out those which were 'the most poignant (simple, basic, intelligible)'. Though he has made other sculptures with a larger number of cubes, the units were much smaller. None of the works in this group includes more than five cubes; otherwise they would be too large on this scale.

The large versions such as the Tate's were made to the human scale and are 160cm high, approximately his own eye-level. They were fabricated from pre existing 6in (15cm) square steel or aluminium tubing and the ratio of bar to space is 1 : 8.5. The fabrication was carried out by NEBATO NV at Bergeyk in Holland, apart from several pieces which were made by Treital and Gratz of Long Island City, New York. Each sculpture can be dismantled and is then reassembled by slotting the pieces together. The elements have been stove enamelled, but the artist said that any white, not-too-glossy, semi-permanent surface would be equally good.

Each sculpture is unique but exists on two scales, large and small, the height of the smaller cubes being 20cm. The first small-scale versions were made in 1965; the first in large scale in 1969.

Some of the other large-scale works are also in museums, as follows:

'Cube' 1969: Kunstmuseum, Basle (this is the piece with a single


'Three Part Piece (Corner)' 1969: Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark
'3-B Half-Off Piece' 1972: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
'3-C Half-Off Piece' 1972: Moderna Museet, Stockholm
'Untitled-4 Cubes (Corner)' 1975: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
'Five Part Piece (Horizontal)' 1970: Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY
'Five Part Piece (in the Shape of a Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou

Cross)' 1970: Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
'Five Part Modular Piece' 1972: Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble

The smaller version of the present work was made in 1971 and is in white painted wood, 20 x 29 x 39cm. It is now in the collection of M. Schmid Adam, Binningen, Switzerland.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.431-2, reproduced p.431