Sol LeWitt Wall Drafters Install Works at the Blanton Museum of Art
by Amethyst Beaver
When he is not drawing on walls, Roland Lusk is usually wearing chest waders and standing up to his knees in water. He is a farmer, of sorts, raising oysters and clams off of the Chesapeake Bay. He comes from a family of marine farmers, as does his wife, a fourth generation oyster and clam farmer. Marine farming allows Lusk the exibility to travel around the world, fulfilling another passion, drawing on walls. Lusk has been working as a Sol LeWitt wall drafter for nine years creating drawings for museums, galleries, and private collectors. At his busiest, he worked one hundred days a year, and was occasionally gone for months.
Lusk is part of a select group of people known as Sol LeWitt wall drafters. They live throughout the world, although mostly in the US and Europe. Lusk smiles as he names drafters and counts on his fingers, deciding ultimately that there are “plus or minus twelve” senior drafters who are actively “on call” at any given moment to create a LeWitt wall drawing.
Sol LeWitt saw his drafters as important collaborators of his works and relished the variability inevitable in the execution of his wall drawings. In a 1971 interview with Sarah Kent,published in Modern Painters in 2007, he said, “Since I use other people, I want them to contribute. The plan I give them is phrased so that they can use their own ideas as much as possible. I try to make the plan specific enough so that it comes out more or less as I want, but general enough so they have freedom to interpret. It’s as though I were writing a piece of music for someone to play on the piano— there’s plenty of opportunity to improvise within the limits.”
Over the course of a year and a half, the Blanton Museum of Art has installed six wall drawings- -four of the them for the exhibition, Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt. These drawings have kept Lusk and fellow senior drafter, Gabriel Hurier occupied in Austin. Collaborating with students and faculty as well as working alone, the wall drawings took anywhere from seven to ten days and up to nine hours a day for the drafters to complete. Out of the six drawings, the largest undertaking was Wall Drawing #797, a project that took forty-six UT students and over fifty-one Blanton staff ten days to complete. As LeWitt did not specify how many people could contribute to Wall Drawing #797, the Blanton’s installation pushed this open-ended call for participation to comical proportions. Given LeWitt’s love of play and absurdity, he most likely would have enjoyed this interpretation and appreciated the community that came together around this project.
Thee instructions for Wall Drawing #797 are as follows: The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached. The first drafter, in this case senior drafter Hurier, started the drawing with a black “not straight” line across the top of the wall. A junior electrical engineering major at UT saw the progress on day five and, grasping the core concept of LeWitt’s wall drawing, exclaimed, “Look at all of the propagation of error!” Like a visual game of telephone, each subsequent line was an opportunity for the individual hand to attempt to replicate the line before it.
“In LeWitt’s work, lines appear, converge, and dance across walls in logical and surprising ways, securing a place in our memories long after they’ve vanished.”
Lusk believes that the opportunity for students to work on a LeWitt wall drawing enhances their appreciation of his work. Lusk notes that it expands the ways that they think about drawing and the different ways that art can be made. Many of the students who participated in the process of creating a wall drawing were able to see the beauty of the imperfections and the variability of interpretation that each person brings to the work—something LeWitt would have enjoyed.
When the exhibition, Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt show closes on May 18th, the gallery will be transformed for the next exhibition. All but one wall drawing will be painted over, in keeping with LeWitt’s practice. Wall Drawing #1243/ Scribbles 2 (PW) will remain on view in the permanent collection galleries as a long-term loan for the next two years. In LeWitt’s work, lines appear, converge, and dance across walls in logical and surprising ways, securing a place in our memories long after they’ve vanished.