Illustrated companion

Not all Minimalists shared the interests of artists like Andre or Serra in the properties of materials. Sol LeWitt's concern, indeed, was to eliminate such elements to create an even purer art of physical fact. To this end he completely reversed the material-based procedures used by Andre and emphasised the primacy of the idea or concept of the work, which would then be carried out in whatever materials were most appropriate. Again, in pursuit of maximum simplicity and logic, LeWitt adopted the idea of using elementary mathematical progressions, or series, as the basis of his work. In particular this had the advantage, for him, of eliminating any residual personal or subjective elements of expression in the work: the artist 'would follow his predetermined premise to its conclusion avoiding subjectivity. Chance, taste, or unconsciously remembered forms would play no part in the outcome. The serial artist does not attempt to produce a beautiful or mysterious object but functions merely as a clerk cataloging [sic] the results of his premise'. This attitude eventually led LeWitt to his wall drawings where the responsibility for carrying out the procedures laid down by the artist is handed over to the owner of the work.

'Two Open Modular Cubes/Half Off' is one of a very large number of works by LeWitt using open cubes in various simple sequences or combinations. It belongs to a group (totalling fifteen at the time this work was bought by the Tate Gallery) of works on this particular large scale to which the basic single cube is progressively added to in various permutations, the works becoming more complex while always retaining their clarity of identity as a combination of identical open cubes. This characteristic simple complexity is most marked in the half-off pieces, in which the cubes are joined halfway along their sides instead of being aligned. Another half-off work in this group has three cubes, and another five, alternatively projecting and receding in a zigzag formation. Five was the maximum number of cubes the artist deemed appropriate for this scale. LeWitt has said that he did not attempt to explore all the possible permutations of the five cubes but chose those which were 'the most poignant (simple, basic, intelligible)'. He decided that the scale of these works should be human and the height of the cube, 1600mm, is approximately the artist's eye level. Most of them were manufactured in Holland from aluminium square section tubing. The metal is stove enamelled but LeWitt has said that any white, not-too-glossy semi-permanent surface would do.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.263