Art lovers compiling their cultural must-sees in the District probably don’t have many Farragut North office buildings on their list. But the lobby of the Don Hisaka-designed 1150 18th Street, Northwest, recently upped its cultural worth significantly with the installation of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing—one of only a few in the Washington area.
“Wall Drawing 882-D” is 45 feet long, and consists of undulating white lines waving across a black surface. “It’s striking because of its sheer volume—it’s a very prominent feature,” says Craig Deitelzweig of Rockrose Development Corporation, which owns the building. “This is one of the larger installations of LeWitt in DC, and it’s the perfect piece for the building because of its modern aesthetic.”
LeWitt died in 2007, but even during his lifetime he rarely executed wall drawings himself. Instead he created blueprints for them with detailed instructions on how they should be made. LeWitt designed more than 1,270 different wall drawings during his career, but only a handful can be found in Washington. “No. 681 C” is on display in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, along with “Wall Drawing #65,” which four artists installed in view of the public over nine days in 2004. There are also wall drawings on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and inside the DC Convention Center.
“Wall Drawing 882-D” was installed by New York-based artist Michael Benjamin Vedder with the help of three student artists: Reuben Breslar and Jihee Kang, from the Corcoran, and Elle Brande, from the Maryland Institute College of Art*. Part of the lobby was closed off for 15 days while the team executed the work, applying two coats of base paint, drawing the lines in pencil, and using drafting tape to mark the work’s curved lines. A lot of the process, Vedder says, involved literally “waiting for paint to dry,” since the work required around seven coats of paint. The artists also had to use a specific method of brushing, which Vedder says the crew picked up right away.
LeWitt’s wall drawings are unique in that their relationship with the artist is purely conceptual. “Sol’s work is not what you see on the wall,” Vedder says. “It’s the draftsperson’s job to interpret it in each particular setting.” The works are purchased in the form of instructions with a signed certificate, and can only exist in one place at a time. “Each one is an individual,” says Vedder, who’s installed around 25 different LeWitt drawings in various locations, including at the 25-year exhibition of wall drawings at MASS MoCa that opened in 2008. “If someone buys the design, the piece of paper, it’s from someone else, so whoever had it before has to paint it out.”
Rockrose declined to disclose how much it paid for “882-D,” but Vedder says similar works have sold for around $300,000. Chicago’s Rhona Hoffman Gallery is currently being sued for $350,000 by the owner of “Wall Drawing 448” after the gallery lost the work’s signed set of instructions, effectively rendering it worthless.
Either way, the work is a striking addition to an otherwise quiet block in downtown DC.
To see a slideshow of images detailing how the work was created, click here.
*This post has been updated from a previous version.