60" On Center

Maude Kerns Installation— North Wall

While there is nothing conceptually radical in my approach to hanging the show at Maude Kerns Art Center(MKAC) I thought it might be worth taking a moment to discuss why everything was not simply hung on a center line at eye level.

Having worked in a gallery before the prevailing wisdom for hanging an art exhibition is that 2D work should be hung so that the center of the work is in line with an imaginary line 60" from the ground. This rather arbitrary measurement is derived from the idea that 60" is "eye-level" for the average person. It is an appropriate de facto placement when the gallery wants to safely represent the work of an artist; i.e. doesn't want to go out on a limb and attempt to artificially establish or suggest heirarchies of importance among the body of work.

Maude Kerns Installation— West Wall

Is this sounding obtuse? OK. Let me clarify. When you hang some images higher or lower than others you risk subconsciously affecting how a viewer values the work. Images that are centered might seem more important than those that are lower on the wall, and those that are higher might ultimately be regarded as inaccessable or aloof. These assumptions about how height affects the viewing experience have led to some fairly radical approaches to staging an exhibition in the past fifty or sixty years, although I doubt that anything can seem more radical than the salon style presentation of images favored throughout Europe from the Renaissance until the mid-20th century.

Heim, Francois-Joseph (French, 1787-1865)
Charles X Distributing Awards to Artists Exhibiting at the Salon of 1824 at the Louvre, 1827
Musée du Louvre, Paris

I have been intrigued by salon style picture hanging for a long time and, in considering the installation at MKAC I knew that I wanted to incorporate the idea of images being displayed near each other so as to create implied narratives. I wanted the viewer to not just focus on one work, and then another work, and then another work; giving each one only a few seconds before stepping a couple (evenly spaced) feet over to the next. Rather, it seemed more effective to imply that there might be a continuity, or relationship, between different pieces. An entire wall might make up a short story with the variably sized white space between works reading as pauses. Taken as an entirety, the exhibition would display a gentle rhythm of movement as the hanging height of the works quietly rose and fell in a wave-like pattern around the room.

My hope was to imply a passage of time within space: to draw a connection between the antiquated and the contemporary. To state that all of this image making that we are doing today is simply a continuation of the long held desire to trap and preserve the transitory.

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