Crayola Square / by Megan Okrand

Squares are, mathematically, quite simple.  The most well known quadrilateral, squares are equal on all sides.  Their perimeter is four times the length of one side; their area, the length of one side squared. Like the mathematical principles associated with them, squares seem constant and unchanging, lacking the need for discourse or a second glance. Sol Lewitt’s Crayola Square is simply a square yet it forces on its viewer contemplation.  

The basement boiler room of MoMa's P.S 1 is dimly lit and even slightly eerie.  The cinderblock walls weigh oppressively down on the floor, making the room feel heavy and claustrophobic.  In a narrow niche, towards the front of the room, is the creation.  

Drawn with Crayola crayons (a material that seems especially appropriate given the setting of the piece: a converted school-house) directly onto the wall, Crayola Square, although surprisingly small in area, manages to capture and hold the viewer’s attention. The square is placed on the wall in such a way so that it is situated on three cinderblocks.  It covers the corner of one, the height of another and about half the length of the third. Although it has a crisp, solid outline, the square reads as almost Pointillist. The brown and dark burgundy dots that compose the square, however, do not seem intentional. Instead, they appear as the result of drawing on the uneven, rippled surface of the cinderblock.

Crayola Square is completely bordered by quadrilaterals: the cinderblocks from the wall in which it was drawn, as well as the graying bricks that make up the alcove where the piece is located. Despite the fact that these four-sided figures have the potential to fight for attention with Lewitt’s work, the drawing manages to captivate its audience. Transfixed by the bold dark color and unmistakable texture (the wax of the crayon mixed with the rough gravel of the wall of the square), the viewer’s gaze remains on the drawing and the drawing alone.  The blocks and bricks that surround Crayola Square recede and fade into the background until they almost disappear. This square has a meditative quality that allows it to become a distinct entity among the rectangles and squares around it.  

So simple but so deliberately placed, the work is more than just a doodle on a wall. Although the drawing is pictorially and geometrically quite basic and fundamental, displayed almost as if it were an icon, it seems to possess a layer that offers the audience reflection and deliberation. Equations such as  “perimeter = 4s” and “area = S2” no longer define the square as the work manages to transcend its typical mathematical association. Crayola Square transforms a mere shape into a form that longs to be grappled with.




The only thing Megan Okrand knows about is art so naturally she left New York City for North Carolina, where there is not a lot of art but a ton of sweet tea. Her name means one end of a stick in Klingon.