Addison Updates Archive

Phillips Academy Math Students Create Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #716

In conjunction with the exhibition Light/Dark, White/Black, the Addison invited Phillips Academy math faculty and their students to engage with the work of Sol LeWitt, and his Wall Drawing #716 in particular. The various mathematical principles inherent in LeWitt’s work also served as a springboard for experimental, hands-on learning of applied mathematics.

In preparation for work on Wall Drawing #716, students in geometry, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and statistics courses read about LeWitt and his work, examined Wall Drawing #713 designed specifically for the Addison’s vaulted ceiling, and explored cross-disciplinary modes of learning and thinking—appreciating art through math and math through art—with Addison Curator of Education Rebecca Hayes and Museum Learning Specialist Jamie Kaplowitz.

Following LeWitt’s instructions for the wall drawing, students began by planning the spacing of the grid on the Elson Wall. They calculated the number of complete squares that would fit, then determined how to distribute the remaining space among the squares to cover the entire wall.

The certificate for Wall Drawing #716 reads:

“A 12’’ (30 cm) grid covering the black wall. Within each 12’’ (30 cm) square, a straight vertical, horizontal, diagonal right or diagonal left line or an arc from one of the four corners bisecting the square. All squares must be filled by one of the 8 choices. The direction or kind of arc or line in each square is determined by assigning each possibility a number (1–8) and by having the drafts(wo)man pull those numbers 1–8 out of a hat. The drawing must begin with the upper left module, and end with the lower right.”

After some practice drawing students pulled numbers from a hat to determine the type of line they would add to their individual square, then carefully drew their lines with assistance from Addison Curatorial Assistant Kelley Tialiou. Other members of the Phillips Academy community, including Head of School John Palfrey, were invited to contribute a square to the drawing as well.


Follow-up projects in the classroom will include calculating angles and plotting points, lines, and equations on graphs. Algebra classes are discussing functions, in which the domain is the set of possible inputs (the numbers 1–8), and the range is the set of possible outputs (the set of eight possible lines). Statistics classes are exploring probabilities, such as determining the probability of pulling numbers from the hat that create a complete circle by connecting adjacent squares.


 Click on the image above to view a time-lapse video of the students creating Wall Drawing #716.