Five Modular Units, 1971 (refabricated 2008)
63 in. x 63 in. x 24 ft. 3 1/2 in. (160 x 160 x 740.4 cm)
Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation
© 2017 The LeWitt Estate/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo by Jerry L. Thompson
Sol LeWitt once described his artistic process this way: “The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” Finding creative possibilities within tight instructional parameters, he often remarked that many of his works would be equally powerful had they been made by others (and in fact many of them were). LeWitt restricted his sculptural output to austere materials, wood or steel, and employed neutral colors, usually white enamel, to achieve a cool, impersonal, industrial look. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, he designed elaborate units of cubes, exploring all possible combinations and permutations, usually by means of mathematical calculations, and frequently repeating identical forms in a serial format. As he noted, “The most interesting characteristic of the cube is that it is relatively uninteresting. . . . It is best used as a basic unit for any more elaborate function, the grammatical device from which the work may proceed.” Five Modular Units occupies a decisive position within his oeuvre. The simple units were a starting point for LeWitt to conceive increasingly complex aggregate structures. And while its cubes are reductive in format, their size and scale—sixty-three inches high, approximately eye-level for many—presaged a new direction in his work, toward more monumental forms.