Walking into the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the scratch of graphite on plaster whispered across the gallery, soon to be overpowered by the slam of hammer on nail.
Ladders, scattered throughout the rooms, jutted out like aluminum stalagmites. Artists, balanced precariously, work away on masterpieces.
In the exhibit, Sol LeWitt Days, local artists are getting the opportunity to work in teams as they follow the instructions made by the famous minimalist artist.
Lauren Rabb, art curator, seemed to be pleased.
“I’m so happy with it,” said Rabb. “It’s perfect, it’s fantastic, it’s exactly, you know, what Sol LeWitt would have wanted.”
When LeWitt started, he made all of his own work. As he grew in popularity and his pieces grew in complexity, he began to take young artists under his wing. Following his instructions, they would then make the pieces, which led to LeWitt leaving directions to his work.
Jake Hunnicutt, a portrait artist, said he felt getting to explore his creativity through restrictions helps him to see LeWitt’s perspective.
“The steps that he’s laid out for creating the art does give you the ability to maybe see the world a little bit through his lens and understand how he viewed art and how he viewed the world,” Hunnicutt said.
The visitors experienced art in an new way, by watching the artists as they worked.
“It allows [people] to see working art, living art. It allows them to come down and participate and ask questions and become more involved, which is really a unique experience,” Carolyn Sotelo, another artist, said.
Sotelo and her group the Magnificent Five are creating pieces No. 103 and No. 869C. Both are done in graphite pencil and express LeWitt’s penchant for imperfect abstract art.
Another group called Construction Crew, made up of Hunnicutt and Leon McNeil, towered above others in the room as they hammered nails into painted patches on the wall. They used string to connect the various posts. Paint cans, brushes, nails and tape littered the plastic tarp protecting the floor beneath them as the sound of their work filled the gallery.
After already completing two of LeWitt’s pieces, No. 815 and No. 1097, the pair decided to write their own LeWitt inspired directions.
Made out of four squares of varying colors, which combine to create one large square, nails are then placed at random spots throughout the sections. The last step is to connect the nails by repeatedly tying black and white string from one point to another, as the piece displays influence from an earlier LeWitt artwork.
Rabb said she hoped the project will expose the community to art in a way that can involve everyone.
“Sol LeWitt’s premise is that art is for anybody and that you shouldn’t be afraid to do a project, it really is accessible to anybody,” Rabb said.
As well as benefiting Tucson, the exhibit attempts to improve the lives of local artists.
“I feel like it could give artists a chance to realize that you don’t have to be famous to do stuff in a museum,” McNeil said. “I mean that’s a big deal for somebody on my level who’s never done anything to this caliber, and so now I feel like I can go anywhere. I can do anything. I can be a famous artist.”
The artists will be working in the museum through July and the art will be displayed until the end of October. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm with a $5.00 entry fee.