By Andrew Davis, Museum Building Reinstallation Project
I didn’t set out to plan museum exhibitions. It evolved quite naturally. Early on in the planning of ClarkNOW, the curatorial team knew that the next several years would be extremely busy. Plans for each exhibition would have to be fleshed out on a small, legible scale before becoming reality. I have an aptitude for the kind of meticulous work that makes some people run screaming, as well as the ability to draw accurately from life, think visually and abstractly, and keep pace with the revisions and changes of direction that a project of this scope will always have.
Synergy was magical as we designed Clark Remix, which presents highlights from the Clark’s permanent collection of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts in a dynamic, interactive space that will allow audiences to engage with the collection in new ways. Clark Remix will be presented in Gallery E, where more than 80 paintings and hundreds of decorative objects will need to fit neatly in a relatively small space. We explored many layouts before selecting a final arrangement of paintings. In this version, a paperboard Reese Witherspoon strolls through a minimally appointed gallery space, enjoying the surfeit of art on the walls.
To ensure we had shelf space for our hundreds of decorative arts objects, I made life-size two-dimensional mock-ups of every teacup, spoon, tankard, mold-blown glass, and porringer on view. Luckily, there were already digital images on file for most of these. First, I made these images actual-size (which sounds easier than it is), then I printed the photos, glued them to mat board, and cut the shapes with an X-Acto knife.
Humble means can achieve impressive ends. For the attractive hardwood floors pictured below, I manipulated a generic digital image into sheets of hardwood wallpaper. I printed them, and then measured and cut them as you might cut wall-to-wall carpeting, and glued them into place.
To really appreciate the high-impact results you can get through low-tech means, just take a look at these life-size paintings I made for Gallery E:
We couldn’t afford to be off by an inch when hanging the Clark’s paintings this densely, so my trusty Sharpie and I made an actual-size stand-in for every work we wanted to use. These are quick studies, done free-hand: first loosely in pencil, then loosely again in marker. Indispensible to our planning, they had the personal benefit of revealing more to me about the collection than I would ever have learned through any research, reading, or hours spent walking through the galleries.
Working in the same scale as the originals allowed me to experience the impact of scale from both the creator’s and spectator’s viewpoints. Making studies from the masters is a time-honored method of learning about art. Reproducing nearly 100 paintings from the Clark’s collection allowed me to walk along with them a bit as they created these artworks in the first place.
Many of the paintings are now on the walls, and the decorative arts are in their cases. We’re nearing completion, and hope you’ll come see the exhibition when it opens on February 12. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Clark Remix!