Friday, May 11, 2012

About Hanging an Exhibition

“Viewing art gives the same pleasure as being in love.
The same part of the brain that is excited when you fall for someone romantically is stimulated when you stare at great works of beauty, researchers have discovered.
Viewing art triggers a surge of the feel-good chemical, dopamine, into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, resulting in feelings of intense pleasure.
Dopamine and the orbito-frontal cortex are both known to be involved in desire and affection and in invoking pleasurable feelings in the brain.
It is a powerful affect often associated with romantic love and illicit drug taking.
In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, scanned the brains of volunteers as they looked at 28 pictures.”

So begins an article published last year in The Telegraph. I am not convinced in spite of the expertise of the neurobiologists who conducted this study. Niether am I convinced that being in love is such a pleasure. I can remember some misery when in that state.

Yesterday my daughter and I and a good friend hung the show I spoke of last week. Fortunately the helpers were competent, but still it took most of the day to get it done and the effort exhausted us. It’s just one decision after another and a lot of measuring, looking and looking again. And then often making corrections when we didn’t get it right. But the biggest determination is about the whole look of the show; the “gestalt”, one might say (if so inclined). Ideally, the work would be from a particular time period and a single vision, or maybe a retrospective with works carefully chosen to represent of certain periods in an artist’s life (or oeuvre as it is sometimes called). The look I don’t like at all, certainly wrong for me, is that of the work of different people juxtaposed. Some work might be fine in that setting. My work likes to be with others of its own ilk. I like solo shows. I sometimes sound to myself like a prima donna but, okay, that’s how it is. In my studio I hang a painting, even when in progress, so that it is next to something that enhances it. None of this was possible yesterday. I chose for this show some work recently framed, never before exhibited, and some pieces from my studio that I wanted to put before a new audience. Also included were some of the prints I make myself and one of my work done by a professional printer (sometimes called “giclées”). These were included to provide a wide range of prices. Once out of the studio, it is about business. And I always want to hang as much as the space will allow sometimes to the detriment of the total effect. That's what we had to deal with.

But, it is oh, so important to me that the work look good. So with an eye to causing the viewer to feel as if in love (Who knows, maybe the neurobiologists got it right?) and at the same time wanting the presentation to have a certain dignity and elegance, and maybe a clue to the seriousness of the intent, (whatever that is), we struggled with our difference of opinions and got it done. Tonight we will see how it looks and next month we will have a reception. That will give us time to redo if necessary. That is an unusual perk, doesn’t usually happen this way. Now I’m going to take the weekend off.

I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers amongst my readers.

 Andrew Wyeth said: "To have all your work and to have them along the wall, it's like walking in with no clothes on. It's terrible."
The image above is Coreopsis ©2006, Acrylic and Mixed Media Collage on Archival Board, 11” x 36”, exhibited for the first time in this show and a favorite of mine.

1 comment:

  1. I think I know what the neurobiologist is getting at - when I see a work of art that appeals to me I feel a kind of burst of pleasure in my head. This is the payback for the trouble and expense of gallery visits. However, like you, I also query the parallel with being in love. This is a state which tends to be productive of a range of emotions; there may be some pleasure but it's just as likely to produce misery, angst and anxiety.