Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Installing Sol LeWitt's "Wall Drawing #139"
Guest blogger Clara Bauman is a senior at Smith College majoring in Art. She assisted in the installation of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides), currently on the third floor of Burton Hall at Smith College until 2018.
Clara Bauman '13 (top) and Clara Rosebrock '16 (bottom) install Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides)in Burton Hall at Smith College, January 2013. Photography by Julie Warchol.
My experience assisting in the installation of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #139is among the highlights of my Smith career. LeWitt’s directions for this drawing – Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides– translates, in this version which we created in the Burton Hall’s Math Department, into approximately 1,550 graphite lines. It took our team of four people (Roland Lusk of the LeWitt studio, and three Smith students) nearly eight full days of drawing work to complete. The process was meditative, all consuming, and unique – something which very few people ever experience. Those eight days have transformed my reading of the final drawing, as my view is infused with the stories and perspectives of our diverse installation team, as well as my own musings on the drawing’s development.
There were six phases to our drawing process. Each set of lines – the verticals of the grid, the horizontals of the grid, and the arcs from each midpoint – felt very different to make. Each time we established a different rhythm to our line-making. We watched as the drawing became increasingly dense and complex. Each layer complicated the patterns in the drawing. As the arcs intersected, giant S-shaped waves emerged and intricate diamond patterns decorated the wall. At the center of the drawing, the grid remained dramatically untouched and became increasingly prominent.
Detail of the center of the current installation of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139.American, 1928-2007. Graphite. Photography by Julie Warchol. SC 2000:27
Our eyes quickly became attuned to the subtleties of this process. We learned about the particular density and thickness of the 6H pencil mark, about the way the lead reacted to the textured surface of the wall, and about the small hand movements necessary for controlling the line.
Detail of the current installation of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139.American, 1928-2007. Graphite. Photography by Julie Warchol. SC 2000:27
It is rare to experience a work of art through the eye of its maker. Whilst drawing, I wondered if LeWitt went through a similar experience of acquainting himself with the materials the first time he drew an arc drawing. Perhaps he spent hours testing the accuracy of the plumb lines as we did, and perhaps he was also concerned about whether the arc’s midpoint was going to meet the grid’s midpoint. In the eight days I spent with Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides),I built a relationship with it. This drawing taught me patience and diligence and about the importance of simplicity. I am blessed to have a relationship with this drawing and to have insight into Sol Lewitt’s artistic process. This insight into the makings of Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #139is one of the most amazing gifts I have ever received.
The current installation of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139in Burton Hall at Smith College. American, 1928-2007. Graphite. Photography by Julie Warchol. SC 2000:27