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What’s in a name?

Our resident blogging rockstar Marketing Intern Will has a comment or two about our Sol LeWitt walls…

YAY! The Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective is ONE year old! One down, twenty four to go. Twenty four more years of visitors with an average of 100,000 visitors per year would mean 2,500,000 people could see the exhibition in its lifetime! That’s a lot of people and I think it is awesome that that many people will be able to see and experience this amazing display of Sol LeWitt’s most notable art medium.

One would think that this particular medium of art, a wall, would be very easy to maintain and conserve for many years. I mean some of the walls in our museum are over one hundred years old and the simple drywall walls in our homes are basically self-maintaining. When it comes to a wall as a work of art it would seem that it would be just as care-free, they don’t even collect dust! However, I have to remember that all works of art are not safe from one particular, almost uncontrollable conservation and preservation threat, the human finger!

Call it art and people seem magnetically attracted and subconsciously encouraged to touch it. Why do we do that? I honestly don’t have an answer for it. I think there is something about the fact that were aren’t supposed to touch that sprouts the little devil on our shoulder and makes us want to touch it.

It seems pretty silly to me especially when the art is made out of something so familiar, like concrete, cloth, stone, or even a wall. Yet the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings are not free and protected from curious fingertips. You would think that all walls are the same and if you’ve touched one you’ve touched them all! But I can see how these Wall Drawings are different. They just seem to be SCREAMING for someone to touch them and feel them as if they are different somehow. And as a consequence of this tactile characteristic I have noticed that during its inaugural year the Wall Drawing Retrospective has suffered a few smudges and marks:

Yet we all know that smudging, scratching, and smearing a Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing is not the end of the world. The physical wall and the pencil or crayon marks on a painted ground are not what really hold the value. It was Sol’s idea and/or concept behind each wall drawing that holds the importance and for that reason the physical wall can be damaged and smudged. All you have to do is paint the whole wall white again and start over.

I guess that is easier said than done. For that to happen we would have to hire a handful of artists to come to North Adams to execute the damaged wall drawings again. We would also have to hire at least one Professional Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Draftsperson to oversee all of the repairs so they are executed to Sol’s standards. While all of this would be fine and dandy, although costly, wouldn’t it be easier if we just didn’t touch the walls?

This whole situation reminds me of Romeo and Juliet, when the two love birds are cooing at each other through the balcony and Juliet famously states

“that which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Just before that Juliet said, “what’s in a name?” And that is exactly what puzzles me. Why do we have a desire to touch these walls when they are named art and yet we know that they are the same as the walls we have at home?

That which we call a Wall Drawing

by any other name would feel as ordinary;

so a Wall Drawing would,were it not a Wall Drawing called.

I see two solutions to this dilemma:

1. We could utilize the six practice wall drawing walls to our advantage. Why don’t we move them into the gallery space somewhere and then visitors can touch away! Everyone can get all of their touchy curiosity out on these practice walls, that are technically not actual works of art, and then continue to enjoy the rest of the exhibition without any temptation to touch the actual works of art.

2. Maybe it is a problem with our disclaimer wall labels:

We have numerous of these wall labels littered throughout the galleries and in a plethora of different languages.

In an ideal world we would be able to read these signs and remind ourselves that we are not allowed to touch the walls. But maybe we don’t have enough languages? I am now on a mission to expand our signage to as many languages as possible. My first translation is Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs (and about one million native speakers in modern Mexcio):

Assuming not all of these smudges and fingerprints were left by Nahuatl speakers I will continue my mission, expanding our wall labels to many more often overlooked languages: Elfish, Klingon (for our Star Trek visitors), Bocce (for our Star Wars visitors), maybe Russian or Hindi, and I still can’t decide if Braile would be a good idea or not…

Anyways, this has probably gone long enough, check out our Flickr photo set for all of our multi-lingual disclaimer labels, and remember

“If you’ve touched a wall you’ve touched ‘em all!

Posted December 28, 2009 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, LeWitt
1 Comment »

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One Comment on “What’s in a name?”

  1. Jason Says:

    You should definitely put up the test walls or some paint swatches to let people touch and get it out of their system!

    I’m totally one of those people that touches everything in the store, so it was torture for me not to touch those smooth blue lines…

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