At the center of the underground network that connects Yale West Campus, horizontal, vertical and diagonal stripes cover two adjacent walls.
The installation, which followed the instructions of renowned contemporary artist Sol LeWitt, were painted by a team of Yale School of Art graduate students in an effort to bridge the gap between art and science. LeWitt, who died in 2007, authored hundreds of blueprints for other wall drawings and donated many of the drawing instructions to the Yale University Art Gallery.
A time-lapse video published by Yale West Campus on March 17 shows the students recreating LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #630” and “Wall Drawing #631” under the supervision of the New Haven architecture firm Svigals + Partners and John Hogan, the Mary Jo and Ted Shen installation director and archivist for Sol LeWitt wall drawings at the YUAG.
“West Campus has been focused on health, culture, energy and the environment and so culture playing a key role in the science world and a bridging of those two is really what this project was about,” said Chris Incarvito, the director of research operations and technology at West Campus.
The renovations to the Imaging Core, which houses research-supporting tools such as microscopes and sample preparation resources, took place in two phases, beginning in May 2014 and ending in November 2015. The art installation occurred after this, according to Bob Skolozdra, a partner at Svigals + Partners.
Skolozdra said his vision for the renovated Imaging Core always included “some large graphic image,” but the specific artwork remained undecided until Incarvito suggested the LeWitt drawings as a collaboration with Hogan.
“I think everyone saw this was a perfect fit,” Skolozdra said. “Here we are out at West Campus trying to integrate arts and sciences, and Sol’s work is about the users actually doing the work — Sol came up with the concepts, but it’s getting other people to create the art.”
LeWitt designed the instructions so they could apply broadly to any wall, regardless of dimension or location. For example, his instructions for “Wall Drawing #631” read: “A wall is divided into two equal parts by a line drawn from corner to corner. Left: alternating diagonal black and white 8-inch (20 cm) bands from the lower left. Right: alternating diagonal black and white 8-inch (20 cm) bands from the upper right.”
Hogan said LeWitt’s wall drawings are based on the idea of not knowing the size, location or timing of their realization.
“It is indeed very much the concept of scientific proof applied to creating an experiment and visualizing that experiment and then that the visualization proves the idea,” he said. “It’s a fairly direct comparison to how science does research.”
The replicable nature of the drawings also makes them more user-friendly in the public environment, compared to more traditional art installations where conservation is a priority, Hogan added.
Because Hogan’s office is also located on West Campus, Incarvito said he was aware of Hogan’s work and expertise and asked for his input on whether there was an opportunity to bridge arts and sciences in the Imaging Core renovations.
Communications Officer Jon Atherton said there is a long history of art storage and conservation on West Campus that was made more “interactive” by the creation of the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in 2012.
“The presence of scientists sitting next to art conservators is really a big part of what we do at West Campus,” he said.
Atherton said that the installation allowed artists to interact with science. Many of the art students who helped to realize the wall paintings had never seen a science core facility before and were amazed, he said.
Four of LeWitt’s wall drawings have previously been installed on Yale’s campus — one in the basement of Morse and Stiles colleges and three at the School of Management.