As you pass through the Bloomberg Arch of Bloomberg Dormitory, be sure to look up: there you’ll find Sol LeWitt’s vivid painting, Wall Drawing #1134, Whirls and Twirls (Princeton). In the late 1960s, LeWitt pioneered a new way of working: inspired by the tradition of mural painting, he began to create drawings and paintings for walls, all of them abstract. However, instead of making them himself, he penned instructions and diagrams and then outsourced the labor to others. The resulting works, like this one, are carefully scaled to their architectural settings. They combine a variety of relatively simple marks and geometric motifs to create aesthetic effects that are both dynamic and beautiful. Whirls and Twirls is especially playful for LeWitt, and its interlocking bands of color, which form a larger series of interconnected shapes, suggest exchange, movement, traffic, and the transmission of energy. When it was commissioned by Princeton University in 2004, Whirls and Twirls inaugurated a new phase of Princeton’s campus art program. Until then, the University’s campus art collection had been comprised almost entirely of monumental bronze or steel sculptures.
Hear the Project Assistant (PP617)
I remember the making of Whirls and Twirls by Sol LeWitt as if it were yesterday. Working as part of a team alongside the Sol Lewitt Studio project leaders was very satisfying. It was summer and it was very hot and stifling crammed atop the scaffolding directly below the ceiling. My most enduring memory is of laying out the mural’s curves and grid with a tape measure and a large handmade compass, based on annotated color diagrams by Sol Lewitt, and transposing the pencil lines to the ceiling. Taping off the lines, sealing the edge of the tape, and painting the sections was the fun part. The final treat was taking off the tape and paper covering to see the finished artwork! The project was literally a pain in the neck—we had to crane our necks to work overhead—but it was an important experience for me as an artist and directly influenced my own art-making practice. Specifically, it gave me the patience and persistence to conceptualize, design, plan, and execute my paintings (on paper, canvas, and wall), often using some of the same techniques, tools, and materials.
Read More (PP617)
When Princeton University commissioned this work, it inaugurated a new phase for the University’s campus art program. Until then, the University’s campus art collection had comprised almost entirely monumental bronze or steel sculptures. This work, in contrast, was incorporated into the design of Bloomberg Hall at the suggestion of the dormitory's donors and is carefully scaled to its architectural setting. In keeping with LeWitt’s practice, the artist came up with the concept and then hired other artists to execute his plans. A team of five draftspersons, led by Tomas Ramberg and Megan Dyer, worked in the ellipse dorm over the course of two summer months. After reproducing LeWitt's diagrams on the ceiling, they embarked on an intricate process of masking off sections of the drawing with tape and painting others in order to maintain the hard-edged separation of colors between the segments.