On Installations (Part 2)

February 2, 2012

Spent the morning looking at some of my favorite graphic design, which all happens to be 1980-2000-ish British design: Tomato, Peter Saville, and The Designer’s Republic.  It occurred to me that what I was doing with the installations I have in my head that pit one body of work against another is some rudimentary graphic design using the wall as page and my images and text as the design elements.  And embedded below is the mockup for the show, which was laid out with as much attention to visual weight (color, size, juxtaposition) as to the kind of conceptual legibility you usually look for when you look at art.

You could even argue that the orange and blue walls (not shown here) are architectural elements in that the orange references an orange panel on the stairwell and the greenish blue references the floor tile but there’s not a whole lot of meaning there and what I was after instead was that you had an easy visual flow from the white wall with my name and show title on it through the lighter orange into the blue and on into the gray, where the images are.  (There are handwritten sonnets on sheets of cardstock on the orange and blue walls.)  Your eyes could easily flow backwards or forwards, which is a consideration you could say belongs as much to design (exhibition design or graphic design) as it does to conceptual heft about why what work goes where and what’s done to the space, which in this case is a reference to the other shows at the Armory, specifically the Richard Jackson installations, Jackson coming out of abstract expressionism into a use of paint in nonstandard ways (like crashing a 15-foot plane full of paint into a giant canvas at the Rose Bowl.)

So this installation coming up at the Armory is gestural abstraction, except I don’t paint with paint, I paint with information.  I’m still ultimately concerned more with meaning and context than with visual pleasure, though I want both.

Each color here represents, at scale, a different body of work, and here what’s tiny is actually a downscaled mockup of a 33-foot wall. In making the final mockup, which I’ll share later, I simply overlaid each square with a scaled image, moving layers around in Photoshop until I got an arc and individual relationships I liked.  I did have issues with my two solid purple squares–they didn’t fit anywhere–but they’re wedged in after a lot of debate about not making them look too much like points at the end of a line.  (The largest squares there, blue, are 20×20″ to give you some sense of scale.)

The unreasonable thing about all this is that the gallery is a mezzanine, and you’d have to back up against the railing in order to even try to take in the whole wall at once, which is problematic because I have a weird fear of falling right now (not heights but specifically falling, things like driving off a bridge or falling from a mezzanine gallery) but the plan is that you can glean the sum total of what’s in outline form above even at an acute angle, and of course walk up to and inspect each individual element on its own.  More later on learning from graphic design in planning my current doesn’t-have-a-home memory and history installation project.

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