Don’t miss your last chance to see the wall drawings by Sol LeWitt that have been on view at SFMOMA since 2000; they will be deinstalled Wednesday, September 17, 2008. Acquired by SFMOMA following LeWitt’s 2000 exhibition here, the works will be covered over but not lost, as they can be re-created by following the artist’s detailed instructions. The two original wall drawings commissioned for the museum’s Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Atrium were purchased by Phyllis Wattis in honor of curator Gary Garrels, who organized the LeWitt retrospective for SFMOMA and will return to the museum as senior curator of painting and sculpture on September 1. The drawings, entitled Wall Drawing #935: Color bands in four directions, 1999, and Wall Drawing #936: Color arcs in four directions, 1999, each measure 29 by 32 feet and were created specifically for the walls of the museum’s soaring five-story atrium.
“LeWitt’s drawings have become landmark works in the museum and we are sorry to see them go,” says SFMOMA Assistant Curator John Zarobell, “but we are happy to announce that new works will be installed in the atrium.” The first of these new works is a pair of sculptures that will be part of the upcoming exhibition Martin Puryear, followed by the first installation of, The Atrium Commission series, a new initiative for the museum. The LeWitt wall drawings will be painted over on September 17 in preparation for the installation of the two Puryear sculptures—Some Tales, 1975–78 and Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996—which are very large and will transform the space of the atrium. The works will be on view, along with the rest of the Puryear exhibition on the fifth floor, from November 8, 2008 to January 25, 2009.
Following the Puryear exhibition, the atrium will be turned over to artist Kerry James Marshall, the first recipient of SFMOMA’s new Atrium Commission. Marshall is a remarkable artist who has explored the topics of racial identity, urban experience, and the Civil Rights movement throughout his 30-year career. The first of a number of artists commissioned to produce a work specifically for the museum’s primary public space as part of the new program, Marshall promises to take on similar issues in an historical context. Marshall’s proposal is to create two large-scale (28-by-32–foot) history paintings featuring Mount Vernon and Monticello, two architectural symbols of the Founding Fathers. Marshall has noted that, while George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both owned plantations staffed with slaves, artists have not represented this aspect of their properties. For Marshall, the commission is an opportunity to address these missing subjects and to offer his own 21st-century interpretation of American history in a pair of playful compositions that will engage viewers in a game of hide and seek. Marshall’s Atrium Commission will be presented to the public thanks to the generosity of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.