When you enter an art gallery or museum you look at all the art works and you never wonder how they got there. Who put these here? How long did it take? After helping out in the Samek Gallery for the past few months I have learned that it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare and install a show. Many people would be surprised at the amount of physical activity that goes into each exhibit.
Recently, I helped install the show in the Downtown Art Gallery called Makeover. The show presents two artists, Bill Domonkos and Elliot Anderson. Elliot Anderson created large light boxes that use photographs of many different landmarks, which are layered on top of each other to create an altered picture of the landscapes. He calls the show Makeover because he is using the photographs to ‘makeover’ the landscapes. Some of these light boxes are fairly large and they all require an electrical outlet so they can be illuminated. The other artist, Bill Domonkos is an experimental filmmaker and his footage is being displayed in the back of the gallery. This film requires a projector and curtains to create a makeshift theatre to show his film. Essentially, the two are beautiful works of art, which took considerable time and care to be installed.
When installing an art exhibit, there are usually a number of required steps. First, the works are shipped to the site of the gallery. Usually they are in large crates or boxes that need to be unpacked. These crates are not messing around. You have to pry them open with drills, and carefully unpack the work of art. After they are unpacked there is a lot of planning on where and how you will place them in the gallery. Once you have an organized plan you must to measure the piece and hang it so it is centered, this requires a formula of measurements and some basic math. After they are hung up you have to adjust the lighting to make sure that they are highlighted perfectly. Lighting is very important because you have to create the ultimate viewing experience for the gallery visitors. In order to adjust lighting you often have to get on a ladder and physically move the lamps and turn them off and on. Once you have all the pieces ready you must make the gallery presentable. You have to sweep, swift, and dust anything you find dirty. Finally you are done. This sounds pretty easy, but often times you must make modifications depending on the type of works you are dealing with.
After helping the Samek staff with this process I have gained a new appreciation for those who work behind the scenes to make the shows happen. I would consider installation and de-installation to be an art form within itself. It requires critical thinking, and an eye for what looks aesthetically pleasing. You have to be organized, and prepared for any form of art. The Samek Gallery staff has a method to the madness and it works. If you ever visit the Downtown Art Gallery or Samek Gallery take the time to appreciate the hard work that has been done to install these beautiful exhibitions.
The Downtown Art Gallery is having a film screening tonight April 16th 7:30 @ the Campus Theatre: An Evening with Bill Domonkos. Come and check it out! There will be a reception directly following the screening across the street in The Downtown Art Gallery!