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United States of America 1928 – 2007

Cubic modular piece no. 3 1968 Materials & Technique: sculptures, synthetic polymer paint on steel

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 232.2 h x 277.2 w x 50.0 d cm ; weight 173 kg
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1978
Accession No: NGA 78.383
Image rights: © Sol Lewitt
  • the artist;
  • John Weber Gallery, New York;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, November 1977

One way of looking at this sculpture is to begin with the squares as the two-dimensional basis of the cubes, to note that the squares and cubes are arranged in sequences, and to recognise that the format is a rectangular grid. On that viewing the square or cube is a module that is multiplied to make the open-lattice structure of the work as a whole. It is a structural principle very common in the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds, but until Sol LeWitt’s works of the mid 1960s was not associated with sculpture.

For LeWitt, it is important that the basic units be relatively uninteresting in themselves, so that they can more easily become an intrinsic part of the entire work. More expressive shapes and colours could disrupt the unity of the whole, a consideration in all serial productions from grammar and syntax to music. Playing with all the choices relating to size, materials and colour enables the artist to expand into any number of variations on the initial concept, so that the first cubic modular piece was four cubes high and four cubes wide, and was made of wood, and the second was configured in an L-shape and made of steel.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

The idea for Cubic modular piece no. 3 originated in 1965 when Sol LeWitt constructed a piece in wood which was exhibited at the Dwan Gallery, New York, in 1966.1 This early work, the first or no. 1 in the series, was an open grid of cubes, four cubes high and four wide. It has since disappeared.

There are two subsequent configurations of the cubic modular piece, both made in steel and painted white. Cubic modular piece no. 2, ascribed the date 1966, is an L-shaped configuration and is now in the collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Australian National Gallery's Cubic modular piece no. 3 is a slightly larger but more direct extension of the format of the original wood piece, being five cubes high by six wide.2

The Gallery owns a second, later, work by Sol LeWitt: Wall drawing no. 380 a-d: isometric figures (cube, rectangle, trapezoid, parallelogram 1982.

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.376.

  1. John Weber (director of Dwan Gallery, New York, at the time), correspondence with the Gallery, 1 March 1986.
  2. The paint is not baked enamel as previously assumed but a synthetic polymer paint sprayed on.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra