Sol LeWitt’s Black and White
PAUL CUMMINGS: Where is the accent in your name?
SOL LeWITT: It’s the last syllable — Le-WITT.
PC: It is? People argue about that all the time.
SL: It’s not a very interesting argument.
PC: Or really accurate. You were born when in Hartford, Connecticut?
SL: September 9, 1928.
PC: You grew up really in the late ’30’s then, the Depression years. Do you remember much of that?
SL: Sure, I remember quite well because we lived on certain streets and in certain areas in certain times. I don’t remember too much of Hartford because I was six when we left — but some things. But New Britain I remember quite well. I do remember living in the part of town that wasn’t really a very good part of town; it wasn’t so bad, really, but I remember that people were out of work. My aunt had a grocery store, and she used to give credit to people and had a hard time getting paid.
“Sometimes just the idea of the white canvas, the kind of virginal space, would turn somebody on.”
PC: Was there an interest in art or music or culture at home? Or books around?
SL: Well, my father was a doctor, and he also invented a lot of surgical instruments. I made lots of drawing, humorous drawings. I just liked to do that. I think most of
us kids do like to draw.
PC: Did you draw a lot as a child?
SL: I did as a child.
PC: Into grammar school, high school?
SL: Yeah. But not — by the time I got to high school, I didn’t do too much, but then I started again toward the end.
PC: Did you take any art classes? Were there any?
SL: I think I took only one year, I think, in high school.
PC: Was there
a museum in New Britain?
SL: There’s a small museum devoted mostly to American art, and they did have some very good things, late 19th century, early 20th century —
Prendergast. They had several very nice things. I used
to go there,
I mean, once or twice. They never changed.
PC: Were the-
re any teachers
in high school that you remember, that you feel were influential?
SL: Well, there were certain teachers that I liked a great deal but not influential in any sense pertaining to art. I liked my Latin teacher very much and an English teacher very much.
PC: How did you come to go to Syracuse University?
SL: Well, I wanted to go to an art school, and my mother wanted me to get a degree, so it was kind of a —
SL: Compromise, right. An uncle of mine had gone there, and it was far enough away from home.
PC: And that was part of it? To get away from home also?
SL: That was part of it.
PC: So how did you like Syracuse? How long were you there?
SL: Four years. At the beginning I didn’t, and then after a while I liked it.
didn’t you like about it?
SL: Well, I was quite young when I went — about sixteen. It was just after the war, and the veterans were coming back, so I felt slightly out of place, although there were other young students as well. It just took me quite awhile to get adjusted. And then I didn’t have much art training. That was very tough on me because it was a very
academic school. There was a lot of cast drawing and stuff like that — painting in a very academic way.
And I was never very good at that. So that all made it more than usually difficult. But then when I finally got on to things, things were a little more relaxed, and they changed the administration of the art school. It was a little freer, and then I liked it better, and I did better. Except that the head of the school did advise me to go find something else to do.