Back to Basics
October 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In 1988, on my very first day of work as an assistant museum curator, my new boss handed me a book. I was to hang a Jasper Johns show the next week (a plum job and I knew it) so I spent the morning pouring over that flimsy paperbound book. It was a no-frills, practical guide on how to hang an exhibition. While I remain to this day in humbled awe at my fellow famous alums’ encaustic paintings, and I doubt I’ll ever own one, the book remains a constant on my shelf.
It’s been lent out to RISD grads and artist friends who need a primer on the nuts and bolts of exhibition fabrication, illumination, signage, picture cable, or the never ending debate on how to conserve objects of art on display. It’s not an exciting read, but that dog-eared book serves as a reminder of getting back to the nitty-gritty basics of what I was taught.
As an Art Historian, and fully crediting the rigorous training I received as an auction house specialist – I gleaned everything I could from being able to deduce perfect proportion by eye to knowing the power of stylistic influences (decisively noting that nothing is created in a vacuum).
As a professional in the world of design, I watch with a pretty critical eye the aesthetic world around me. There is a lot of flash with little substance. It takes more than being “good with color” to design a space. Choices, big and small, need to be made by someone with education, knowledge, and experience.
I feel if we can remember the basics – from simple things like complimentary color or the right place to hang a painting (general rule of thumb is the very bottom of the frame is 52″ off the ground), the process is smoother. The key is to approach everything fully grounded in the basics of good, functional design. The fundamentals won’t change, the guidance in that little book remains true, and in the greater scheme of life, the basics are, by definition, an essential starting point.