FourSidedPyramid1

Sol LeWitt’s “Four-Sided Pyramid”

The definition of public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.  The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which exhibits several pieces from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection in an outdoor setting, is an excellent example of public art. Located on the National Mall between the National Gallery’s West Building and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (MAP), the Sculpture Garden, and more specifically an exhibit there entitled “Four Sided Pyramid,” was the destination for this ride.

Four-Sided Pyramid consists of concrete blocks precisely stacked to form a stark, eye-catching terraced pyramid. In bright sunlight, the white blocks and shadows play visual tricks on the eye as you view the structure from different angles. From some angles the exhibit can appear to be a simple pile of cubes. But from other angles, the contrasting white blocks and dark shadows can also create a isometric optical illusion, where it isn’t clear whether a given vertex is an inside or outside corner. It was installed at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in 1999 by a team of engineers and stone masons, according to a plan designed by the artist, whose approach was to come up with a concept for each structure often presented as a set of instructions which assistants then used to construct the object.

Four Sided Pyramid was designed by an American artist named Solomon “Sol” LeWitt. He came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings and modular, quasi-architectural forms he called “structures,” a term he preferred instead of “sculptures.” LeWitt was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting, and was from the early 1960s until his death in 2007 he was considered at the forefront of various movements, including Conceptual Art and Minimalism, of which he is regarded as the founder.

LeWitt has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world for almost half a century. And his works continue to be represented here in the Sculpture Garden, as well as important museum collections throughout the world, including the Tate Modern Museum in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade, and the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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