Sign Spinning and Conceptual Art


March 1, 2022

Sign Spinning for Conceptual Art

The Case For Conceptual Art

Sign Spinning and conceptual art. What do they have to do with each other? Sign spinners are executing conceptual art daily, whether they are aware of it or not. According to Sol LeWitt, “the idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product.” In this context, every trick or idea we share is a work of art. This is one of the key components behind Yumi Janairo Roth’s “SPIN (After Sol LeWitt).”

To better understand this overlap, we could turn to other examples of conceptual art. Does anybody remember the silly spiked “S” we all used to draw in elementary school? The idea of the “S” remains the same in everyone’s mind. It is at this point one might realize that the idea of the “S” isn’t exclusive to any individual artist. So long as you have the idea, you have the concept. Conceptual art!

Sign Spinning for Conceptual Art

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Closing Celebration in Las Vegas on Friday, July 23, 2021. Performance by local artist Rayen Jones. Photo by Miranda Alam

Let’s take our previous example one step further. If one can provide instructions on how to play a song, like sheet music, then the idea of the song is effectively passed on and anyone can play it. Regardless of who plays “happy birthday,” we can recognize it as such. Sol LeWitt applied this mechanism to visual art through his famous wall drawings.

When viewing sign spinning through the lenses of conceptual art, one could reverse engineer the instructions a sign spinner is following. If one sign spinner acts on the instructions for a “Toast Toss,” then the other sign spinners trained in the craft will recognize it as such. When training a new spinner, one is effectively transferring conceptual art to the student.

Sol LeWitt and Sign Spinning

LeWitt’s sentences on conceptual art are brilliantly displayed on the signs within the walls that make “SPIN (After Sol LeWitt).” In much the same way one sentence reads “numbers are not math,” the signs on the walls are not sign spinning. What we do with those numbers is mathematics. What we do with the signs is the art of sign spinning.

A view inside Spin (after Sol LeWitt)

Spin (after Sol LeWitt) by Yumi Janairo Roth. Image courtesy of John Spiak, 2022, CSUF Grand Central Art Center.

To truly experience sign spinning through the lenses of conceptual art, check out Spin (After Sol LeWitt) at the Grand Central Art Center from March 5th to June 12th. To hear more ideas and topics related to sign spinning, check out The SPINdustry Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.


(12) Spin (after Sol LeWitt) – YouTube

Yumi Janairo Roth: Spin (After Sol LeWitt) | Grand Central Art Center

Yumi Janairo Roth (@yumijroth) • Instagram photos and videos

KCET News Story by Aliese Muhonen