The Great Wall(s) of Syracuse (Sol LeWitt)


Sol LeWitt Six Curved Walls (Syracuse) (2004?)

Forget about the promotional hype about Sol LeWitt’s “Six Curved Walls (Syracuse)” breaking down barriers between the University and the community. It’s just an interesting sculpture-installation by Sol LeWitt, who graduated with a BFA from Syracuse in 1949.

Sam Gruber got it right in a piece that ran back in 2004 at the Forward, especially about any social meaning the leadership at SU would like to read into the work:

“The undulating walls, between which is created a series of unexpected openings and passageways, span 140 feet of hillside below Crouse College, the ornate red-sandstone castle built in 1889, and one of the university’s signature buildings. This is a big and visible work. Even during its construction it generated, in Cantor’s words ,“dialogues of place and function; in its becoming, it provided a powerful context for change.” Usually LeWitt does not burden his works with social meaning, but the university patrons of the project are encouraging others to do so.

The related curves of the walls are generated by persistent deviation of pattern and line that LeWitt has explored in his two-dimensional work. The walls’ curves, and the gridlike articulation of the walls created by the slightly projecting ends of the concrete block, combine to create a seemingly endless combination of simple related, but divergent, forms. As in so much of LeWitt’s art, there is complexity developed out of minimalism.”

Personally, I like the rolling crude, concrete blocks here at SU, the illusion of motion, and the way the work itself invites you to move in and out between the segments. Oddly, though, the site chosen for the sculpture-installation does not lend itself to easy access.

Allegorically, the breaks between the six walls (Syracuse) would remind me, in ways both superficial and deep, of the incomplete construction of Kafka’s “Great Wall of China.” There too, the wall forms but a discontinuous line of broken segmented pieces.

As per Kafka’s narrator, “To provide a detailed account of why we have a flaw here would amount not just to rattling our consciences but, what is much more serious, to making our legs tremble. And therefore I do not wish to go any further in the investigation of these questions at the present time.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to The Great Wall(s) of Syracuse (Sol LeWitt)

  1. I never thought to connect Sol LeWitt to Kafka. You did it, and it worked!

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