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Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.

Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.

  • 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

    Comments

    paola prins '86 - 12/09/2013

    sol lewitt

    Very exciting project!

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  • Monday, April 1, 2013

    Student Picks: Beauty by Design - The Art of Japanese Kimono

    Student Picksis a SCMA program in which Smith students organize their own one-day art show using our collection of works on paper. This month’s student curator and guest blogger Suzu Sakai ‘16 discusses her show “Beauty by Design: The Art of Japanese Kimono” which will be on view this Friday, April 5 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Suzu will also be presenting an original miniature kimono designed specifically for this exhibition, along with a brief and fascinating account of the history of Japanese kimono design. We hope to see you here!

    Despite being a Japanese, I have never been as interested in learning about my own traditional culture as much as foreign cultures. However, my way of thinking changed last semester, in taking Smith College’s Costume Design I class. While working on a project which involved researching feudal Japanese costume, I fell in love with the beautiful and exotic Japanese kimonos. This helped me realize how wonderful and serene Japanese culture was.

    In my Student Picks exhibition Beauty by Design: The Art of Japanese Kimono,I have selected certain woodblock prints focused on the design of kimonos, mainly during the 1800s. These woodblock prints feature women’s kimonos and kimonos worn as costumes by actors, who at the time were all men.

    The term kimono,the T-shaped traditional Japanese garment we know today, in Japanese means simply ‘a thing to wear.’ This term kimonowas actually invented in the Meiji era (1868-1911), when Westerners asked the Japanese to name their style of dress. The history of the kimono goes as far back as the eighth-century, when the Emperor proclaimed that all garments in the Imperial Court were to be worn strictly overlapped from right to left. This style reflected the style in the Tang dynasty (618-907) of China, and it was in the Heian period (794-1185) that the Japanese started developing their own distinctive culture and style.

    Looking at these artworks on Friday, I hope viewers will leave with some kind of interest in Japanese culture, and may be even be as mesmerized by the beauty and richness of these kimonos as I am.

    Chikanobu Toyohara. Japanese, 1838-1912. Tea Ceremony,1896. Woodcut printed in color on three sheets of medium weight cream-colored paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-455a,b,c.

    Toyota Hokkei. Japanese, 1780-1850. Surimono: The Hell Courtesan (Jigokudayu),from Three Prints of Courtesansseries, mid-1820s. Woodcut printed in color on embossed paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Barker (Margaret Clark Rankin, class of 1908) "The Margaret Rankin Barker - Isaac Ogden Rankin Collection of Oriental Art." Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1968:478.

    Utagawa Kunisada. Japanese, 1786-1865. Two Seated Geisha, One Playing the Biwa,ca. 1850. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Gift of Helen D. La Monte, class of 1895. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1970:14-2.

    Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi. Japanese, 1798-1861. Geisha by the Sumida River from Popular Customs of the Present Age (Tosei Fuzoku Konomi),1830s. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Barker (Margaret Clark Rankin, class of 1908) "The Margaret Rankin Barker - Isaac Ogden Rankin Collection of Oriental Art." Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1968:499.

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  • Thursday, March 28, 2013

    Less is More: Josef Albers

    Josef Albers. American, born Germany, 1888 – 1976. Homage to the Square – MMA-2,1970. Screenprint in four colors on Mohawk Superfine Bristol paper. Gift of Priscilla Paine Van der Poel, class of 1928. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1983:44-2

                                            “What counts here – first and last – is not so-called knowledge

                                              of so-called facts but vision – seeing.”

                                              – Josef Albers, Interaction of Color(1963)

    The grandfather of Minimalism, Josef Albers was a prolific painter, printmaker, designer, and teacher who illuminated the importance of astute perception and restrained expression. Formerly a teacher at the Bauhaus in Germany, Albers profoundly influenced twentieth-century American art as a teacher at Black Mountain College and Yale University. His famous color course took a radical approach to the application of color in art and design. Rejecting traditional theory, Albers stressed that color is inherently unstable and dependent on its relationship to adjacent colors. He taught his students, many of whom later became influential artists in their own right (Eva Hesse, Robert Mangold, Chuck Close, Richard Serra, and others), to trust their vision and use color in experimental ways.

    The culmination of Albers’s seminal color theory, which he developed along his thirty-six year teaching career, was the publication of his book Interaction of Colorin 1963. The book is a lengthy summary of his teachings in the form of poetic instruction and theory accompanied by a stack of 80 sheets which serve as the visual representation of Albers’s principles and exercises. Because Albers distrusted the inaccuracies of reproduction produced by conventional commercial printing processes, each color for his illustrations was instead individually mixed in ink and screenprinted. Consequently, each sheet is an original screenprint. This process was the gateway for Albers into the world of screenprinting as an important aspect of his own work, which he continued until his death in 1976. Originally the book with screenprinted illustrations was produced as a limited edition publication, but began being distributed as a paperback book with only 10 high-quality (but not screenprinted) color plates selected by Albers in 1971. While SCMA is fortunate enough to have one of the original 1963 editions of Interaction of Colorin its collection, the book is now widely available in its abridged form and serves as a fundamental text for artists, designers, and students today. 

    Josef Albers. American, born Germany, 1888 – 1976. Interaction of Color,1963. Book and paper-covered cardboard portfolio containing eighty screenprints on paper. Gift of Mrs. Albert L. Arenberg (Claire Strauss, class of 1922). Photography by Julie Warchol. SC 1975:3-2 (1-80). View of book (left), book case (center), and stack of screenprinted illustrations (right).

    Josef Albers. American, born Germany, 1888 – 1976. Interaction of Color,1963. Book and paper-covered cardboard portfolio containing eighty screenprints on paper. Gift of Mrs. Albert L. Arenberg (Claire Strauss, class of 1922). Photography by Julie Warchol. SC 1975:3-2 (1-80). View of several screenprinted illustrations inInteraction of Color.

    In 1961, inspired by his work developing Interaction of Color,Albers began making prints inspired by his famous Homage to the Squarepaintings. All of the Homage to the Squareimages use his standard square composition to display the visual effects of innumerable color variations. Working with master printers to execute his graphic works, the artist relished the meticulous and collaborative printmaking process. Since Albers’s prints required precise execution, printers were often driven to create new technical approaches to satisfy his needs. Master printer Kenneth Tyler, of Gemini G.E.L. and Tyler Graphics Ltd., worked with Albers on many of his prints and subsequently worked with many Minimalist artists. According to Tyler, “Albers’s geometry had to be whistle clean. And this placed a new demand on the medium.” This was extremely different from prints made by “the sloppy school of the Abstract Expressionists, where whatever shapes are found by accident are made images.”

    In his screenprints and lithographs, Albers found a technical means to negate the artist’s hand and create images which are arguably more inexpressive than their hand-painted cousins. Albers believed that removing all evidence of individual expression creates a more powerful visual impact. In Homage to the Square – MMA-2,Albers constructs a subjective experience for the viewer, who perceives each shade of saturated red ink in relation to its adjoining colors. It is an endless exercise of subtle comparison.

    Homage to the Square – MMA-2is currently on view in Less is More: The Minimal Print(Feb. 3 – May 5, 2013) on the second floor of the Smith College Museum of Art. The original 1963 edition of Interaction of Colorcan be viewed by appointment at the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

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