Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sol LeWitt Scibble part 2

The Sol LeWitt Scribble Drawing continues to advance with more than a hundred hours of pencil contact to the walls of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery each day. One of the people penciling this historic piece is Wellsville’s Allison Midgley, Technology Coordinator at the David Howe Library and mixed media artist.

Midgley’s on leave from the Library for 8 weeks during each of which she will practice 42 hours of precision drawing flowing from first one hand and then the other.

Midgley said, “The drawing is about our ability to collaborate, coordinate and communicate. Each artist works in an area for some hours and then moves to another area. In this way each artist has the chance to give the work a personal impression while we also blend the many styles into the whole.”

The drawing was commissioned in 2006 by gallery director Louis Grachos. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007) finished the design, producing an artist sketch, computer generated plans and a maquette (model) before his sad death in 2007. Following his vision, work at the Albright-Knox began this August.

The process involves drawing chaotic, rounded scribbles across the 2200 square feet of wall to create LeWitt’s intertwined pipes. The piece is the largest of LeWitt’s 1261 wall drawings.

While working, the artists look closely, many of them holding a shop light in one hand and a pencil in the other. They lean forward moving the light and turning their heads watching and evaluating as they trail graphite over the wall. They stand or sit on floors or scaffold boards or reach through spaces to contact the different parts of the wall – in some places 22 feet tall.

They examine the work up close and from a distance. The piece is about chaos making precision - about small becoming great. The team of artists and artisans blend their hands into a single work of art. In the end scribbles become pipes bending, pushing out from and stretching across the 3 interior walls of the stairwell – including 2 inside corners - another unique feature for this work.

From a few feet, the lines present disarray but stepping back the lines advance with continuous gradations somehow changing into crisp divisions where the “pipes” meet at right angles and diverge with clear boundaries. Boundaries made of controlled chaos. They do it by always drawing with the same amount of pressure and the same line quality but by changing the density of the lines. The layered lines create texture and become reflective surfaces.

Midgley said that it’s been interesting to see how the lead use changes. “On the first days, each person went through several leads or pencils daily and then as the density of lines within an area increased, it took less lead to make more apparent change. It’s a study in contrasts.”

“Honored,” is the word she uses when she muses over her role in the drawing. Midgley received her undergraduate degree art from the University of Dallas in 1988 and moved to Wellsville in 1990. At the Library she coordinates computers with patrons, staff and materials. During off time she makes mixed media art, rides her bike and practices yoga.

“Yesterday,” she said, “I just looked around and thought, I’m part of this. I’m involved in this.”

So, is every line important? “Yes,” Midgley said. “If you pulled one out, you’d see where it had been. Each line builds on preceding lines. They are all part of the whole, part of the texture. We look at the small area but think of the large. Each line matters.”

It is estimated that the artists will put pencils down early in October and that, possibly, on October 12 clear sealant will be applied to protect the delicate graphite lines. Then the plastic will come down and scaffolds will be removed and the warren of steel pipes that seem to pull the walls into rounded, burnished steel forms will be open to visitors from around the world.

Until then, at the bottom of the stairs, there is a sign stating that the crew includes “painters, printmakers, illustrators, architects and one librarian.”

By mid October all of their names will stand proudly for decades as this industrial image shines in one of the country’s premier modern art galleries in this old, manufacturing city.

Elaine Hardman is a potter, member of the Allegany Artisans and friend of Allison Midgley. Elaine grew up on the corner of Hertel and Delaware Avenues in Buffalo, NY. -Support for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s exhibitions and installations are provided, in part, by the Seymour H. Knox Foundation, the John R. Oishei Foundation and the Margaret Wendt Foundation.

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