Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Art of Scribbling

Imagine... you were just hired to work on a project where all you had to do was scribble. Yes, scribble, with a pencil. OK so far. (I mean, how hard can it be?) You report in the first morning, a little curious about where this scribbling is to be done and a little smug at landing this job. (I mean, how hard can it be?) You meet the boss and your fellow artists in the lobby of the building. That building is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in the section where the two museum buildings meet. The boss casually waves his arm and says that this is where you'll be working. Everyone looks around, puzzled, thinking "Where, exactly?" He then clarifies the situation, stating that all of the 2,200-square-feet of the lobby walls are your canvas.  

This is how the mural, Wall Drawing #1268:Scribbles: Staircase (AKAG), was started, just as you see above. The mural was designed by artist Sol LeWitt in 2006, but he passed away in 2007, before it was actually started. Under the direction of five master draftsmen from LeWitt's studio, the mural was completed in 2010.

Because of the very public location and importance to the museum and the precise substrate needed to accurately complete the mural, the walls needed to be extensively prepared. After the large scaffold was erected in the eight foot stairwell (with two viewing windows for guests to peek into built within the structure of the scaffolding), the wall prep included: "seven layers of sanding, two coats of plaster skim coat, two coats of oil-based paint primer, and five to ten coats of latex paint, with a total of nineteen days of drying in between layers."**  
(Hmm- that is actually the same prep needed for a lacquered wall...)

Just think of the amount of black dust that must have been produced by covering the wall in graphite! The entire twenty-six foot scaffolding was wrapped in plastic; the artists entered the protective plastic “cocoon”  by walking on Sticky Mats catch the dust from their shoes.

Before his death, LeWitt left simple instructions: 
Line. Continuous gradation and feel of steel.
So, 16 artists worked (scribbled) 7 hours a day for a total of 5,026 hours over 54 days using 1,717 pencil leads. They had to work in sections, completing each one before moving on. Entire walls were “gridded out” to match LeWitt’s plan using common household thread.When adjacent sections were completed, the paper was removed and the joining edges were touched up. The mural was varnished before the scaffolding was removed, not only to protect it, but also to darken it and give the surface of the drawing a matte finish.      

To have worked on this mural, I imagine that each artist had to crawl inside his head and dig deep to be able to scribble for that long of a time, day after day. They probably saw different shapes in their scribbles with many emotions surfacing throughout the day. I don't think I could have done it myself.

What a beauty!

Cheers to the artists for just earning the Best Mural Award given by Wallpaper magazine in their February, 2012 issue.

The artists were Darren Adair, Takeshi Arita, Kyle Butler, Roshen Carman, Andrew Colbert, Cynthia Cui, Katharine Gaudy, Aviva Grossman, John Hogan, Ani Hoover, Gabriel Hurier, Roland Lusk, Amanda Maciuba, Allison Midgley, Alyssa Morasco and Joshua Turner.

Visit here for fascinating reading at Albright-Knox Art Gallery's blog on the wall in progress.

Post Script

I just ran across the work of Il Lee- along the same line, but Mr. Lee's medium is the ballpoint pen. 
Some pretty amazing works, wouldn't you say?


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