careful what you ask for

As project coordinator, I’ve had the privilege of overseeing the details of making the drawing happen here at the Albright-Knox. So when the scribbling instructions were given last Wednesday, August 11, I didn’t anticipate the jealously, longing, and exclusion I felt about not being able to scribble myself. I wasn’t expecting to want to literally be a part of the mark making. In casual conversation, I mentioned this to the Sol LeWitt studio assistants, Tak and Gabe. In their welcoming way, much how I envision LeWitt would have been, they said, “Come up and scribble anytime. If you have a free moment, you’re welcome to scribble with us.” This sounded good; much likes a smoker’s break, I could take a scribble break to step away from my desk, email, and phone. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to immerse myself into the act of scribbling and a moment here or there between other things would not suffice. I donned my jeans, pulled my hair back, and showed up at the scaffolding on Saturday afternoon, August 14. I spent the next 3 hours on the top level of the scaffolding scribbling on the south wall of the Albright building on the Albright-Knox campus.

I wasn’t expecting what I would experience. In that short time, I learned that anyone can scribble. Absolutely anyone that can hold a pencil can make the marks that are being made as part of this Sol LeWitt drawing; there is no special “LeWitt scribble.” But the key skills— the ones that are not easy to come by—are the ability to see and interpret what you’re seeing. Any art instructor will tell their students that it is important to see art. In seeing artwork, one’s mind is certainly educated but the more one sees the more one’s ability to understand what one is seeing is strengthened. The ability to see takes practice and learning.  I was asked to fill in some of the darkest areas on the walls. As I began making scribbles on the wall, I was adding graphite scribbles on top of already-made graphite scribbles. Because of this, I had no idea how to even see what I was doing.

I tried to keep Sol LeWitt’s instructions for this project in my mind as I drew: Lines. Continuous gradation. Feel of steel.  In learning how to see the built-up density each scribble was making, I could scribble more accurately. (No, this is not an oxymoron.) It was necessary to frequently step back or to the side to see what I had just scribbled. The time flew by as I scribbled, and when someone shouted out “break time!” I wasn’t ready to stop. I scribbled for a couple more hours—all within a 3 square foot area on the wall. As I cleaned up for the day, wiping my hands, face, and arms with baby wipes, along with the rest of the crew, I was exhausted. My expectation for scribbling was that it would tire my mind. Boredom was not an experience I felt in the slightest; the physical demands of holding onto the scaffolding and assuming awkward positions for extended periods of time created an exhaustion so deep that I was completely satisfied putting in my three hours and getting back to my desk on Monday.

-Ilana Chlebowski, Curatorial Assistant, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Image Credit: An unidentified hand emerging from behind the scaffolding on Day 5 of the Sol LeWitt scribble wall drawing at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photograph by Tom Loonan.