At the University of Arizona Museum of Art, Jake Hunnicutt and
Leon McNeil recreate the Sol LeWitt wall piece
No. 815. Photograph by Kathryn Burney
By Kathryn Burney

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, seems 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. 

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 said. 

Sotelo, another artist, and her group the Magnificent Five are creating pieces No. 103 and No. 869C Both pieces are done in graphite pencil and express LeWitt’s penchant for imperfect abstract pieces.

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 litter the plastic tarp protecting the floor beneath them as the sound of their work fills 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,” said McNeil. “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.”


Comments are closed.