Inside the creation of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 797
A student drafter at work

This past February, the Blanton team was hard at work preparing to open Converging Lines, our exhibition celebrating the friendship between Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt. As part of that process, 49 University of Texas students ranging from PhDs to undergrads, Electrical Engineering to Art History majors, worked over 11 days alongside trained drafters from the LeWitt estate to bring Wall Drawing #797 to life. We invited Art History major Julie Timte to reflect on her experience helping to create this site-specific work:

I have always been interested in contemporary art, and I have always admired Sol LeWitt for his initiative in involving students in his process.  As soon as I heard about the Converging Lines exhibition at the Blanton and the opportunity to participate in the installation of Sol LeWitt’s work, I rushed to apply.  I was lucky enough to be selected as a participant in the installation of a LeWitt wall drawing.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 797
Milinda Hernandez works on tracing the line above

When I arrived to the Blanton on my assigned night, I met a senior drafter from the LeWitt Estate and my fellow student drafters. We received broad instruction, and then climbed onto the scaffolding to begin the installation.  The piece we worked on consisted of alternating red, yellow, and blue lines.  Each installer was assigned a color, and all we had to do was follow the line immediately above ours.  For such a straightforward task, I was quite nervous at first, paranoid that I would pick up the wrong color or lead the line askew.  However, with time, I got the hang of the technique, rotating the marker with increased ease.  And as we progressed, I became amazed at the organic patterning that emerged.  When I was close to the work as I was installing it, I focused on the distance between the lines and where one line deviated from the next.  However, when I stepped back to watch the other students work, the distinct colors were barely visible.  At a distance, the waves almost appeared three dimensional, undulating in space.  The whole time I was installing the work, I was thinking of the childhood game “telephone,” where one person whispers a message into the ear of the next, and the sentence is completely transformed by the end.  The same process occurred in our work on the wall drawing.  With the touch of many different, and imperfect, hands, lines were transformed to create a dynamic piece.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing 797
The completed wall drawing (click the image for a larger version)

One of my favorite elements of this experience was being trained by a senior drafter and gaining knowledge about the handling and installation of art.  From being mindful of the distance between the scaffolding and the wall to the technique of creating the line, I learned so much about the physical creation of contemporary art.  I have to say I loved being behind the scenes.  I also enjoyed meeting my fellow wall drafters.  Both happened to be foreign exchange students, and getting their perspective on the art was intriguing.  Using my hands and collaborating with so many others to create a work of art was truly a unique and rewarding experience.

Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt is on view at the Blanton through May 18, 2014. Photos by Mary Myers. 

Wall Drawing #797: The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached, 1995

Black, red, yellow, and blue marker on wall
Installation view, Blanton Museum of Art
LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut
© 2014 Estate of Sol LeWitt/Artist Rights Society (ARS)

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