April 2015: Bands of Color in Various Directions

/ Collections - Spotlight on the Collection

Bands of Color in Various Directions. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), 2001. Vinyl on aluminum. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Dr. and Mrs. John Poynor and the Bluff Park Art Association in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary, AFI2.1999.1. © 2013 The LeWitt Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Bands of Color in Various Directions. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), 2001. Vinyl on aluminum. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Dr. and Mrs. John Poynor and the Bluff Park Art Association in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary, AFI2.1999.1. © 2013 The LeWitt Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Bands of Color in Various Directions, Sol LeWitt, 2001

Bands of Color in Various Directions, from Sol LeWitt’s series Wall Drawings, is one of the largest artworks in the Museum’s collection. Installed in the Charles Ireland Sculpture Garden, it measures over 13 feet high and over 83 feet long. Its six panels, each framed within a black border, contain different configurations of bright bands of color – from vertical and horizontal straight lines to arcs, waves, and angles.

LeWitt, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was a pioneer of Conceptual Art. This movement emphasizes an artist’s ideas over the physical making of an artwork. In many cases, others construct the actual artwork from a set of instructions provided by the artist. LeWitt wrote: “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art… No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea. It is the process of conception and realization with which the artist is concerned… The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product… Conceptual art is good only when the idea is good.”

Indeed, the Museum constructed Bands of Color in Various Directions using a diagram and a scaled, painted maquette (mockup) provided by LeWitt. The artist oversaw all aspects of the work’s creation, including the selection of materials and choice of colors. Local contractor R. B. Atkins & Associates, Inc. fabricated the final product using laser-cut vinyl on aluminum – new materials for the artist, but which could withstand exposure to outdoor weather conditions – according to a blueprint.

Join the conversation!

Some types of Conceptual Art, like LeWitt’s, emphasize the artist’s ideas over the actual production of an artwork. How does Conceptual Art question the nature of art itself? How closely do you think an artist should be involved in the physical creation of his or her own artwork? Check out the slideshow and resources, and join the conversation below!

How did they do it?

See how the BMA made Bands of Color in Various Directions in 1999.

Read more!

“Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Sol LeWitt, 1967

Visit the Museum’s Clarence Hanson Library to explore these resources and more:

Alberro, Alexander and Blake Stimson, eds. Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.

Garrels, Gary. Sol LeWitt: A Retrospective. San Francisco, CA, and New Haven, CT: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yale University Press, 2000.