Every so often Pretty often, I come across something here that makes me step back. Looking at artwork every day, it seems a common occurrence. But these made me almost giddy when I saw them; what you see above are maquettes that Martin Puryear sent just for the planning of the upcoming exhibition.
Each of them are no more than 4 or so inches tall and are fantastic. When we saw these in our Curator's planning room, we all got even more excited about the show. Usually when we see the maquettes for a show, they are printed on little pieces of cardboard with images of the works on them. To conceptualize the show from the little paper works and imagine the experience is near impossible unless you have a physical reference to the work. In this case, to see the little wooden works in scale, wonderfully crafted and formed and in three dimensions, I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the show would look like (I hadn't seen too many of Puryear's works in person). I knew this was going to be a beautiful show, and when I saw the models, I was assured of it.
But now that the show is up, and having seen the works in person, I couldn't have anticipated how incredible it looks.
Part of what so different is seeing the show installed in its entirety. The space plays an important role in creating the drama of an exhibition. This is an often overlooked role of the curators. In addition to finding great art and writing about it, the display of the work is just as important. Seeing the maquettes and spacing them out on a floorplan is one thing, and it seems pretty simple, but there is such nuance and subtlety to what a curator does that makes an exhibition the most it can be. A curator has to both understand each individual artwork as well as the whole exhibition, while considering the space it will occupy. The gallery plans often sit in our Curators' offices for months before an exhibition, being reworked daily.When the work gets to the building and into the galleries, the plan almost always changes. Sometimes they change entire galleries, other times it is a matter of inches.
But the end result, as with the Puryear show, attempts to reach a harmony. Something that unifies the individual works with a whole, yet allows each piece a chance to have a clear voice. This is something that takes a specially trained eye to translate 4" models into a masterful arrangement of 5+ ft tall objects.
For a few more images of the models, check out our flickr stream.