“Wall Drawing” by Sol Lewitt


On first reading the Sol Lewitt’s “Wall Drawing”, I felt totally overwhelmed. Although it was clear to me that the instructions were precise, I found them excruciating to parse mainly because of the nested structures littered throughout the text. To remedy this difficulty, I broke the text down by isolating the instructions for each point (the instructions for any two points were separated by the word “to”). I then transferred these instructions to a table, and organized them by line number (1, 2, 3, or 4) and by point number (p1, p2). Within a given instruction, I found instances of nested points (halfway between a point halfway between) and color coded them for readability.

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I eventually generated a quadrangle from the instructions, but was not satisfied by the results. Particularly, I was unsettled by the ambiguity of this instruction:

A point where a line would cross the first line if it were drawn from the midpoint of the right side

This instruction, I found, allowed for an infinite number of points along a certain line. To be sure, Lewitt might have intentionally embedded ambiguity to allow for variation and an element of interpretation. And yet, this particular instruction stood in stark contrast to the specificity of the other instructions, all of which referred to a single point.


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