Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Word Art

Wall drawing No 766
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Late last year I was introduced to the work of Sol LeWitt, an American artist who, when hit with the equivalent of writer's block, decided to reduce art to its essentials, “to recreate art, to start from square one,” he said, beginning literally with squares and cubes. He put his ideas for art into words, which would then be translated into art by someone else. Confused? Here is an example.

Wall drawing, No. 766 (one iteration of it is pictured on the left) was described as follows “Twenty-one isometric cubes of varying sizes each with color ink washes superimposed. The person who purchased the "drawing" would be presented with these instructions. They could hire LeWitt to produce it, another artist or do it themselves.They could produce it several times but they had to destroy the existing one before creating a new one.

I am not one to wax philosophical, but this raises one question in my mind, who is the artist. Is it the person who creates and articulates the idea of the painting or the one who actually produces it?

This question comes into play in the world of art with words, writing. Since I completed my studies in editing people have approached me about editing their work. Very often, I am approached by people who have well-developed ideas but limited writing skills. The work does not need editing but extensive overhauling. If one person develops an idea but another paints the pictures in words and turns it into something that is palatable to a reading audience, both can receive credit on the book, but who is the true artist?


Charles Gramlich said...

I have to say, in my opinion, ideas are a dime a dozen but the actual work of putting that idea down and getting it coherent and getting it to flow and work for a reader is the hard part.

Liane Spicer said...

I read an article about a short story that is now viewed as a classic of the genre (can't remember author or title) but which is substantially different from the version the writer submitted to the New Yorker editor. The editor was the one who polished it and turned it into the gem it's now held to be.

I too have a bit of a problem with some of the work I'm given to edit. Correcting mechanical errors is easy, but rewriting is harder because I want to smooth out the rough patches that don't say what they're supposed to, but don't want to impose my writing and style to the extent that the work becomes mine.

The art in your illustration made me think of Josef Albers, a German-American artist and teacher who spent 25 years painting squares. His "Homage to the Square" series became quite celebrated.

Interesting stuff.