Photo Diary: A tour of installation art at the IMA, in Indianpolis.


Ball-Nogues Studio, Gravity’s Loom, 2010 — currently on display in the entry hallway. (All photographs are courtesy of the IMA, unless otherwise noted.)

From the fall of 2009 to the summer of 2010 I volunteered at the Indianopolis Museum of Art (IMA) under Associate Conservator of Objects & Variable Art, Richard McCoy. While there I documented and filed examination reports on works by artists such as Maya Lin, El Anatsui, and Robert Smithson. I also helped with the installation and maintenance of the Tara Donovan (my current boss) exhibition.

Over the holidays I paid a visit to the contemporary galleries; which during my time at the IMA I’d become very familiar with, so it was nice to return with fresh eyes. Here are some of my favorite installations, both old and new:


Robert Irwin’s, Light and Space III, 2008.  (Image from Thoth188.)

In 2008, Robert Irwin made an installation for IMA’s Pulliam Great Hall, which is at center of the IMA’s galleries. The space at the time was dimly lit, adorned with outdated wood décor — lacking any kind of impact for the focal point of the IMA experience. True to Irwin’s style, Light and Space III evolved directly from the requirements of it’s location; in a sense he grew the piece from the space. One of the most amazing experiences I had while interning at the IMA was when this installation was turned off; while walking through the contemporary galleries, I kept feeling as though something was missing; it was the presence of this piece, which is turned off whenever the museum closes. (Learn a little about this piece and Irwin’s process by watching a video of the artist in conversation with my old boss.)


In the two images above, Do-Hoh Suh’s, Floor, 1997-2000.

This incredible installation by Suh is a clear floor being held up by millions of tiny cast figurines.  Walking on this floor and seeing all the hands holding you up provides a surreal interactivity I have always enjoyed.


James Turrell’s Acton, 1976

Acton has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid visiting ‘the big city’ of Indianapolis. The installation is a great example of Turrell’s now famous windows of light, which often give the impression of being solid through controlling light and space. The piece above, for example, is actually a darkened room with a rectangular hole cut into a white wall, which opens into a even darker room. Through the lighting, paint, and windowed wall, there appears to be a solid grey plane.  Slowly, as your eyes adjust and you near the rectangular window, you realize that the rectangle is not solid, but actually an opening into another room, causing a disorienting and perceptually engaging experience.

When I was an intern at the museum I often thought about all of the elements of this piece that go unappreciated: If trash was accidentally dropped behind the window, the illusion of a solid plane was destroyed. Upon its installation, the gallery lighting had to be changed, the back of the room painted, walls rounded, and the outside light limited. A viewer might say that the ‘art’ is the window of gray that appears solid, yet the entire room required alterations for the grey window to appear at all.


Maya Lin’s Above and Below, 2007.

This installation by Lin is suspended outside the back of the museum, and is visible from the contemporary galleries and the Asian galleries. Like Robert Irwin, Lin’s materials and dimensions had to be in keeping with the space, but Lin took it a step further by also addressing the location conceptually. Looking to the Indiana landscape, which is generally known for being flat and covered in corn, she found her inspiration in the state’s extensive cave systems. By translating a map of a segment of Indiana cave into a sculpture, Above and Below, provides a unique nod to Indiana’s overlooked geography.


Andrea Zittel, Island, 2010.

Among the many contemporary artists involved with the Art and Nature Park that lies behind the IMA, I find Zittel’s installation the most exciting. It has a simple physical presence — a small white igloo-like island in the middle of the lake that is frequently inhabited by local artists. (In fact, if you’re interested in applying to work within the piece, you have until next week to submit a proposal.) What impressed me so much about it is that Zittel has now relinquished much of her control over her installation, creating only a framework that will be added to for years to come. The first inhabitants of the Island, Michael Runge and Jessica Dunn, created many of their own projects, and documented their work on a blog here.

One comment

  1. Kamilah Gill-Reed

    Thanks so much for this piece. You just talked about my home turf! I’m an artist living and working just north of Indianapolis, and I grew up here. Nice job highlighting some of the best pieces at the museum. I like that installation of colorful strings, the little people holding up the clear floor, and Acton. Wish I could have met you when you were here. It’s nice to know that one of the C-Monster bloggers has been here :)