Turning Traffic into Light and Space

March 30, 2015

 

 

Traffic on a Friday out of NYC is bad.  On a summer Friday it's terrible.  On a summer Friday in August when there is a car fire on the Queensboro bridge that shuts the bridge for hours and locks up every intersection on the east side from the 60s to the 20s as heavy traffic is diverted to other already overtaxed east river crossings – well that's just brutal.  It was this summer Friday in August of 2013 that I thought it would be a good idea to try to grab an extra bit of late summer sunshine and head out of the city early – as yet unaware of the unmoving mass of frustration that I was about to encounter.  After progressing only a block and a half in 45 minutes, I decided that time was better spent elsewhere while the city unsnarled.  I had read about but not yet seen the reinstallation of the Robert Irwin exhibit, "Scrim Veil – Black Rectangle – Natural Light, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York," (let's call it "Scrim Veil" (!!) ),  so I decided that it would be better to spend two to three hours contentedly walking around the Whitney instead of inching ten blocks down Lex.  I had no idea how profoundly the exhibit would resonate with me, or how lucky I was that I had brought my camera along.

 

"Scrim Veil" is an installation piece by Light and Space artist Robert Irwin that was originally exhibited at the Whitney in 1977.  The physical elements of the exhibit consist of a white scrim made of semitransparent polyester installed the length of the 117-foot room and suspended from the ceiling to a height five feet and six inches above the floor, a three inch thick black aluminum beam connected to and running along the bottom of the scrim, and a three inch thick black line painted along the perimeter wall of the room which constitutes the entire fourth floor of the building. The architecture of the building and the floor is also crucial.  The trapezoid shaped window, the heavily textured slate tile floor, and the square-cell honeycombed ceiling of the Marcel Breuer building are all key aspects of the installation – so much so that Irwin gave the piece to the Whitney on the condition that it would only be installed in that specific space.  With the move of the Whitney from the Breuer building to its new Meatpacking location (due to open May of this year) it is uncertain when or if the piece will ever be reinstalled.

 

Walking around the room and observing/interacting with the piece was incredible.  The aluminum beam and perimeter stripe created fantastic lines and angles, and the interplay between the structurally patterned ceiling and the opacity introduced by the scrim veil were so visually arresting as to be almost distracting.  Of course I had to look at the room from all corners, sides, heights, directions.  Introduced into all of this were the other visitors, who became a part of the installation as they moved around, showing in color while near the window, appearing as in black and white while further away.  And then there were the security guards – one or two at all times, stoicly positioned in two locations along the scrim veil to discourage any testing of the veil or bar, providing a visual and physical constant as museum visitors wandered the space.  After an initial round of the room I confirmed that photography was allowed, took out my camera, and tried to capture some of what I was fortunate enough to see.  For over two hours I shot from different corners, down the line of the bar, along the wall; sometimes purposefully avoiding having other museum goers in the shot and catching only the abstract beauty of the lines and textures, but mostly recognizing that the unstaged inclusion of an individual or groups of people had fantastic results.  I spent a considerable amount of time sitting in the dark corners of the room away from the window, taking shots with a thin book propped under my lens to get a consistent and good angle, earning me occasional puzzled glances from the closest security guard.   It was a fun, indulgent, memorable few hours that yielded some of my favorite shots that I've taken. 

 

I'm happy that the positive reaction to these photos is not exclusively mine.  The first time I showed a photo from the series in March 2014 it was awarded third place for photography.  Last summer, another photo from the series was one of two of my photos accepted into the East End Arts annual national juried show.  More recently, the shot above, "Scrim Veil Blush" was accepted into the Northeast Area Arts Council (NAAC) 27th Annual International juried visual arts exhibit featuring the work of female artists.   It's a  color photo that looks like a black and white shot with some color introduced.  However, the photo is essentially untouched, with the brick building across the street visible through the window and reflecting a lovely wash of color onto the floor.  The room was just amazing for the light and shade, and you can see the gorgeous textures of the floor and ceiling and the lines of the piece.  The exhibit is held at the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock, IL through April 27th. 

 

Another photo from the series, "Scrim Veil Color Spot," was chosen for inclusion in theonline gallery for UniteWomen.org's  second annual "Voices: An Artist's Perspective" exhibition.  The gallery show opens April 2nd and will feature the work of 26 artists in the National Association of Women Artists (N.A.W.A.) Gallery at 80 Fifth Avenue, NYC at Union Square, and the work in the online gallery will be displayed electronically at the show.  I'm proud to be included in an event that celebrates the work of women artists and to have my work chosen from over 800 entries.

 

On a non "Scrim Veil" note, I'm happy to announce that I will be "curating" the newly established Instagram feed for Professional Women Photographers, a fantastic photography organization that I joined in August 2014.  Posts will highlight current and upcoming photo exhibits at galleries and museums in NYC and elsewhere, feature the work of both established and emerging photographers, and highlight interesting photography events. Please follow!!! On Instagram @pwponline .  Follow my personal feed on Instagram @michele_dragonetti .  Thanks!

 

As always, thanks for your interest in my photography and please always feel free to contact me with any comments or questions. 

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