LeWitt’s works transform School of Management walls

Faculty and staff at the School of Management are installing three of Sol LeWitt’s works into Foster + Partners’ Evans Hall.
Faculty and staff at the School of Management are installing three of Sol LeWitt’s works into Foster + Partners’ Evans Hall. Photo by Benjamin Hecht.

Behind the glass windows and stark walls of the new School of Management building lie the beginnings of a colorful new installation featuring the work of acclaimed artist Sol LeWitt.

LeWitt donated a large number of his wall drawings to the Yale University Art Gallery before his death in 2007, hoping that the University would archive and properly maintain the integrity of his work. Several pieces from this large collection have been displayed at the YUAG, and museum director Jock Reynolds has been making an active effort to place more of LeWitt’s drawings throughout campus, said John Hogan, the YUAG’s installation director and archivist since 2013. Thanks to Evans Hall architects Foster + Partners and a team of faculty and staff from the School of Management, three of these pieces have found a home in the new School of Management building, which has gone through almost 6 years of construction and is scheduled to open in 2014.

“[Evans Hall] is a very modern, stark building in some senses,” said SOM professor Stanley Garstka, the faculty member in charge of ensuring that the design and construction are true to the programmatic needs of the space. “Art is a way of livening [it] up a bit.”

The building is very transparent, featuring wide windows and an open layout. When the installation is finished, Garstka explained, the transformed walls will be “visible from almost no matter where you are in the building.” The rest of the design feels more traditionally “Yale,” featuring leather furniture, a wood-finished cafeteria and a courtyard, he added.

Hogan has played a central role in the ongoing installation at Evans Hall, which he says will be completed by early November.

“The scope of Sol’s work is quite large,” Hogan said, adding that it ranges from subtle pencil drawings to more active, colorful pieces. The Yale architects and general planners asked for works that have a strong visual presence and are more durable, rather than LeWitt’s more delicate pieces meant primarily for museums.

What makes LeWitt’s paintings so unique is their intrinsic ability to be recreated and shared. LeWitt created original drawings that artists could then reproduce on walls anywhere by using his template.

“The nature of Sol’s work is about the idea of the piece,” Hogan said.

As LeWitt’s principle drafter in the early 1980s, Hogan knows the artist’s process and installation procedure well and is now leading a team of Yale undergraduates and graduates in installing them in Evans Hall.

The process begins with scaling LeWitt’s drawing in relation to the wall space. Many of his sketches are expandable and retractable and can be blown up without sacrificing the integrity of the initial design. Hogan has selected works that are both “strong choices for the building” and “work with the dimensions of the walls.”

In the weeks since the project’s start in early September, the group has already made significant progress on installing two pieces. Working from LeWitt’s scaled blueprints, the designs are sketched onto the wall and covered with a layer of paint. One wall is splashed with bold horizontal stripes and rainbow diagonals. Another is carefully painted with half circles and broken brown brush strokes. The third vibrant work will be 20 feet high and 60 feet long, a colossal tribute to LeWitt that will likely take most of October to be completed.

Last semester, undergraduate art group The Elihu Athenæum and the YUAG installed LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing No. 587” in the basement that Ezra Stiles College and Morse College share.

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