8-Bit Sol Lewitt

This story begins with the purchase of a television. After going nearly five years without owning a TV and consuming all media through a computer screen, Miss Pop and I realized we had no way to watch the ball drop at our New Year's Party and that a TV of sufficient size for our tiny apartment would not be that expensive. We bought a 32" Samsung on sale at Best Buy and set it up with a Chromecast to stream the internet. We still did not get cable, but a reclined viewing position and an iPad functioning as remote control and cable box together has made the process of discovering engaging videos really enjoyable.

The most important addition to my media-consuming life is being able to watch YouTube on something other than a computer screen. It is no surprise that there is endless content on YouTube, but watching it on a TV changed my perspective on how to best utilize it. I felt like I had a portal into studying any topic I was evenly mildly interested. Wanting to absorb as much as I could about art, I actually typed in "Art Documentary" into the search box and found way more videos I could ever reasonably watch. I found videos on specific artists, entire museum collections, and full-length documentaries about various movements. Remembering that you can build playlists in YouTube, I set about collecting any video that peaked my interest. You can find them all here on the Art Tube

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Feeling proud of my discovery, I pulled up one of Miss Pop and my favorite artists, Sol Lewitt, who we learned about when his Wall Drawings were installed at Dia:Beacon last year. What I immediately loved about his work was his process. I really appreciated how he made art into a communal practice, where the piece is made by the contribution of many people, and his nearly-instructional titles sound like jokes. Simply from viewing his work, I feel I have learned more about how to make art than probably any other artist. As a result of his popularity and shared nature of his work, a lot of the videos on YouTube showed the installation of his work, which include many artists helping to recreate his vision.

Particularly, I was most impressed with seeing his scribble drawings being made.  These drawings are recreated using 6 gradations of scribble density that the artists continually manipulate until seamless transitions between black and white are produced.

I have been working with transitions and imperceptible changes in color that create a larger effect with repetition, and the scribble drawings really struck a chord with me. Since Sol's work is accessible by anybody, I desired to create a scribble-style piece myself that would allow for randomness within a specific structure; however, my problem was that I use vector graphics and don't scribble on walls. 

I remembered the grid function in Adobe Illustrator—it's default is 1/8" subdivisions with 1" major gridlines— and realized that by coloring individual grid boxes, I could control the density with a reasonable amount of randomness just like the scribble drawings.  Within any 1x8 row or column I randomly drew 0-8 pixels depending on where I wished to direct the flow of color. I can't say it was a purely random selection, but I did my best to distribute pixels so they weren't too bunched up or repetitive. Even the artists making Sol Lewitt's scribbles adjust as they see fit to make a cohesive piece.

 Illustrator Grid with columns of 0, 1, 2, and 3 pixel densities

Illustrator Grid with columns of 0, 1, 2, and 3 pixel densities

Using this method, I made five different sections in the piece, later learning that I could even make densities of 1/2 and 1/4 using more than one column. I initially dubbed it "8-Bit Sol Lewitt" because of it's pixelated style and I liked that it rhymed, later realizing that it is legitimately an 8-bit piece. Each grouping has 8 pieces of information that are turned on or off, just as an 8-bit processor works in an old computer. It seems cool to take an organic scribble and translate that to how a computer might interpret Sol's instructions.

 8-Bit Sol Lewitt

8-Bit Sol Lewitt

It was a very fun challenge to take one of my hero's works and try to recreate it an a manner I am capable of. Doing this not only helped me realize how powerful Lewitt's work is, but also how refined each individual scribble drawing is. It takes a talented vision and many repetitions in practice to understand how something will turn out when made via instructions. These first attempts are not nearly as complex and engaging as Sol's. I know it would take a lot of time to reach a master level, but I am thankful for gaining a deeper understanding into the process of constructing and executing a work of art.