Sol LeWitt at Paula Cooper Gallery

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Installation view. (Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery)

Sol LeWitt’s 1987 gouache Complex Form is one of a series produced in conjunction with Wall Drawing #564: Complex forms with color ink washes superimposed, itself conceived and executed for the 1988 Venice Biennale and currently being shown for the first time since. In the gouache, 10 colored triangles and a square are fitted together into a form like an open parenthesis or a squat obelisk casting a truncated shadow. Stains, daubs and multiple layers of color—muddy yellow over blue, pale orange over red—produce an unusually open view into the emotional content of LeWitt’s work, but its seamless geometry shines as clear as ever through this more frankly carnal execution.

12 X 12 X 1 TO 2 X 2 X 6, an incrementally rising latticework of open white cubes, reads as an arithmetical rebuke to simple materialism. From head on, it looks transparent, like the maquette for an uninspiring skyscraper. But looking down into it from the corner, you see an exponential explosion of half-tones, hexagons, asterisks and esoteric pathways fully open but not quite fully revealed. Squiggly Brushstrokes, on the other hand, a nearly 12-foot-wide, gouache-on-paper vista, offers an appearance of complexity that resolves into simple repetition. Yellow, red, blue, black and white squiggles wrap sinuously around one another, against a charcoal gray background, like the vermicelli in an Indian dessert.

The complex forms of the exhibition’s main event, Wall Drawing #564, are built up of triangles and quadrilaterals in yellow, red, green, blue and various shades of olive or purple to look like perspectival drawings of three-dimensional objects, except they won’t lie still. They roll around three full walls of Paula Cooper’s giant backroom like a rollicking brass orchestra, harmonizing the smaller pieces’ gentle games of bait and switch between simple and complex, open and opaque. In here, what you see is what you get, but also not: The background colors are  simple and flat, but subtle and multilayered; the walls read as smooth but are actually tacky; and each unresolvable polyhedron is framed with thick black bars, except the ones that bend around corners or extend over multiple frames. (Through Oct. 12)