A new undergraduate art exhibition commemorating the late School of Art professor Robert Reed ’60 ART ’62 seeks to challenge the viewer’s conception of space using a room filled with string.
The exhibit, “I am what is around me,” derives its title from the opening line of Wallace Stevens’s poem “Theory” and explores the connection between space and subject as well as man and his ideas. Organized by Josie Massey ’15 and housed in the Ezra Stiles College art gallery, the exhibition is composed of drawings she completed under Reed’s tutelage in the “Basic Drawing” course during her freshman year. Despite creating the exhibit in memory of Reed, Massey said she does not intend for it to serve purely as an homage to him.
“I hope people come and interact with the space in a new way than they’re used to,” Massey said.
In addition to housing Massey’s drawings, the exhibition also forces viewers to navigate a web of strings that cut through the exhibit space. A note near the exhibition’s entrance stated that visitors are encouraged to write their thoughts on the artwork on post-it notes and place them in the exhibition space, which now contains dozens of notes attached to the strings.
Massey said she long had a desire to create an installation where viewers could walk over string. She noted that she focused on the concept of tension in her featured drawings and felt that string could physically embody the theme throughout the room.
“[The string] makes people navigate the space in a different way,” Massey said.
Students interviewed found the layout to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the space.
Ashley Feng ’16 said she believes that the strings engage viewers, unlike much of modern art, which keeps viewers at a distance. She added that the exhibit made her consider the mentor-student relationship in art, noting that she specifically contemplated the question of how artists are influenced by their mentors’ style while having to develop their own artistic identity.
Emma Fallone ’16 said she understood the string to be a physical metaphor of bringing people together. She added that though she did not know Reed, the exhibition gave her a better sense of his personality and teaching style.
Massey noted that in the second half of Reed’s course, students developed their own projects and created hundreds of drawings throughout the creative process.
Known by students and faculty for his unwavering support of undergraduate art education at Yale, Reed had a reputation for being a demanding instructor, even to students with no artistic background.
Massey explained that Reed’s teaching strategy involved asking students to focus on the underlying structure and composition of objects rather than on their aesthetic qualities. School of Art Dean Robert Storr added that Reed “had a very definite idea of what people should know and how they should learn.” Massey noted that she and her class worked on cardboard building as part of the course.
“I am what is around me” will close this Friday.