I Was a Double: Making and Breaking Rules

By Connor Batsimm, Contributing writer I was a double

When we think of artists, we picture painters, sculptors, photographers, even graffiti artists, who begin with a handful of materials and end with something tangible. However, leading modern artist Sol LeWitt argues that the role of an artist is less about the production of a physical object and more about the formation of an idea. LeWitt, who died in 2007, created a variety of rules which artists have kept in mind while constructing their works of art. LeWitt has compared himself to a composer, stating “It’s as though I were writing a piece of music and somebody else is going to play it on the piano.” One of LeWitt’s pieces, Wall drawing #1202, a massive drawing of shaded rectangles composed entirely of pencil scribbles, is currently on display at Skidmore’s Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, as a part of the ongoing “I Was a Double” exhibition. I Was a Double, which opened July 5 and is scheduled to run until Jan. 4 of the following year, features the works of artists, like LeWitt, who invent rules that can be used to create art. Unlike LeWitt, many of these artists went on to construct the actual piece themselves. The artwork displayed in I Was a Double features a variety of mediums. Thoughts on Crystals, created by Tony Feher, is made of bottles and red and blue marbles arranged to form shapes. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s piece, Untitled (Series #2), is an inflatable plastic pool filled with water, clorox, and porcelain bowls designed to bump against each other and produce noise. This piece came about in the idea that music can be made from anything. There are also several chairs and cushions created by modern artist and designer Johanna Jackson and her husband Chris Johanson. In addition to the visual art, I Was a Double also features a soundtrack composed by David Lang. Each piece of artwork also features a sentence written by the artist, describing his or her rule-making process. The sentence provided by Sarah Cain for her painting Separated at Birth, “I was a double until I was no more,” is what inspired the title of the exhibition. The word “double” can convey multiple meanings. On one level it can refer to a pair, duplicate, or doppelganger. It can also mean two musical instruments playing together, as well as the dual role played by many of the artists featured in the exhibition: inventing an idea and then executing it. Critics of modern art may be skeptical that all of the pieces featured in this exhibit are indeed art; however, this exhibit has something for everyone. It’s hard not to marvel at the simple beauty of Ruth Vollmer’s Intersecting Ovals or the dizzying patterns of Karin Davie’s In Out In Out Drawing #16 and #17. If nothing else, I Was a Double provides a fresh perspective on the age-old question of what exactly makes something art. For those interested in art of any form, this exhibition is not to be missed.

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